Kabul airport attack kills 60 Afghans, 13 US troops

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Two suicide bombers and gunmen have targeted crowds of Afghans flocking to Kabul’s airport, in the waning days of a massive airlift that has drawn thousands of people seeking to flee the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan.

Follow along with updates below:

7:20 p.m. update:

WASHINGTON — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has ordered the flags at the U.S. Capitol to be flown at half-staff in honor of the U.S. service members and others killed in the attack in Afghanistan.

The speaker’s office said she had ordered the flags lowered Thursday after the bombings outside the Kabul airport in Afghanistan.

The toll of service members who died has risen rose to 13, according to Capt. Bill Urban, spokesman at Central Command. The latest number of injured is now 18, all of whom were in the process of being evacuated from Afghanistan on specially equipped C-17s with surgical units.

At least 60 Afghans also died.

7:05 p.m. update:

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Two suicide bombers and gunmen attacked crowds of Afghans flocking to Kabul’s airport Thursday, transforming a scene of desperation into one of horror in the waning days of an airlift for those fleeing the Taliban takeover. The attacks killed at least 60 Afghans and 13 U.S. troops, Afghan and U.S. officials said.

The U.S. general overseeing the evacuation said the attacks would not stop the United States from evacuating Americans and others, and flights out were continuing. Gen. Frank McKenzie, head of U.S. Central Command, said there was a large amount of security at the airport, and alternate routes were being used to get evacuees in. About 5,000 people were awaiting flights on the airfield, McKenzie said.

The blasts came hours after Western officials warned of a major attack, urging people to leave the airport. But that advice went largely unheeded by Afghans desperate to escape the country in the last few days of an American-led evacuation before the U.S. officially ends its 20-year presence on Aug. 31.

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the killings on its Amaq news channel. The IS affiliate in Afghanistan is far more radical than the Taliban, who recently took control of the country in a lightning blitz. The Taliban were not believed to have been involved in the attacks and condemned the blasts.

In an emotional speech from the White House, U.S. President Joe Biden said the latest bloodshed would not drive the U.S. out of Afghanistan earlier than scheduled, and that he had instructed the U.S. military to develop plans to strike IS.

“We will not forgive. We will not forget. We will hunt you down and make you pay,” Biden said.

U.S. officials initially said 11 Marines and one Navy medic were among those who died. Another service member died hours later. Eighteen service members were wounded and officials warned the toll could grow. More than 140 Afghans were wounded, an Afghan official said.

One of the bombers struck people standing knee-deep in a wastewater canal under the sweltering sun, throwing bodies into the fetid water. Those who moments earlier had hoped to get on flights out could be seen carrying the wounded to ambulances in a daze, their own clothes darkened with blood.

Emergency, an Italian charity that operates hospitals in Afghanistan, said it had received at least 60 patients wounded in the airport attack, in addition to 10 who were dead when they arrived.

“Surgeons will be working into the night,” said Marco Puntin, the charity’s manager in Afghanistan. The wounded overflowed the triage zone into the physiotherapy area and more beds were being added, he said.

The Afghan official who confirmed the overall Afghan toll spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief media.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said one explosion was near an airport entrance and another was a short distance away by a hotel. McKenzie said clearly some failure at the airport allowed a suicide bomber to get so close to the gate.

He said the Taliban has been screening people outside the gates, though there was no indication that the Taliban deliberately allowed Thursday’s attacks to happen. He said the U.S. has asked Taliban commanders to tighten security around the airport’s perimeter.

Adam Khan was waiting nearby when he saw the first explosion outside what’s known as the Abbey gate. He said several people appeared to have been killed or wounded, including some who were maimed.

The second blast was at or near Baron Hotel, where many people, including Afghans, Britons and Americans, were told to gather in recent days before heading to the airport for evacuation. Additional explosions could be heard later, but Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said some blasts were carried out by U.S. forces to destroy their equipment.

A former Royal Marine who runs an animal shelter in Afghanistan says he and his staff were caught up in the aftermath of the blast near the airport.

“All of a sudden we heard gunshots and our vehicle was targeted, had our driver not turned around he would have been shot in the head by a man with an AK-47,” Paul “Pen” Farthing told Britain’s Press Association news agency.

Farthing is trying to get staff of his Nowzad charity out of Afghanistan, along with the group’s rescued animals.

He is among thousands trying to flee. Over the last week, the airport has been the scene of some of the most searing images of the chaotic end of America’s longest war and the Taliban’s takeover, as flight after flight took off carrying those who fear a return to the militants’ brutal rule. When the Taliban were last in power, they confined women largely to their home and widely imposed draconian restrictions.

Already, some countries have ended their evacuations and begun to withdraw their soldiers and diplomats, signaling the beginning of the end of one of history’s largest airlifts. The Taliban have insisted foreign troops must be out by America’s self-imposed deadline of Aug. 31 — and the evacuations must end then, too.

In Washington, Biden spent much of the morning in the secure White House Situation Room where he was briefed on the explosions and conferred with his national security team and commanders on the ground in Kabul.

Overnight, warnings emerged from Western capitals about a threat from IS, which has seen its ranks boosted by the Taliban’s freeing of prisoners during its advance through Afghanistan.

Shortly before the attack, the acting U.S. ambassador to Kabul, Ross Wilson, said the security threat at the Kabul airport overnight was “clearly regarded as credible, as imminent, as compelling.” But in an interview with ABC News, he would not give details.

Late Wednesday, the U.S. Embassy warned citizens at three airport gates to leave immediately due to an unspecified security threat. Australia, Britain and New Zealand also advised their citizens Thursday not to go to the airport.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid denied that any attack was imminent at the airport, where the group’s fighters have deployed and occasionally used heavy-handed tactics to control the crowds. After the attack, he appeared to shirk blame, noting the airport is controlled by U.S. troops.

Before the blast, the Taliban sprayed a water cannon at those gathered at one airport gate to try to drive the crowd away, as someone launched tear gas canisters elsewhere.

Nadia Sadat, a 27-year-old Afghan, carried her 2-year-old daughter with her outside the airport. She and her husband, who had worked with coalition forces, missed a call from a number they believed was the State Department and were trying to get into the airport without any luck. Her husband had pressed ahead in the crowd to try to get them inside.

“We have to find a way to evacuate because our lives are in danger,” Sadat said. “My husband received several threatening messages from unknown sources. We have no chance except escaping.”

Aman Karimi, 50, escorted his daughter and her family to the airport, fearful the Taliban would target her because of her husband’s work with NATO.

“The Taliban have already begun seeking those who have worked with NATO,” he said. “They are looking for them house-by-house at night.”

The Sunni extremists of IS, with links to the group’s more well-known affiliate in Syria and Iraq, have carried out a series of brutal attacks, mainly targeting Afghanistan’s Shiite Muslim minority, including a 2020 assault on a maternity hospital in Kabul in which they killed women and infants.

The Taliban have fought against Islamic State militants in Afghanistan, where the Taliban have wrested back control nearly 20 years after they were ousted in a U.S.-led invasion. The Americans went in following the 9/11 attacks, which al-Qaida orchestrated while being sheltered by the group.

Amid the warnings and the pending American withdrawal, Canada ended its evacuations, and European nations halted or prepared to stop their own operations.

The Taliban have said they’ll allow Afghans to leave via commercial flights after the deadline next week, but it remains unclear which airlines would return to an airport controlled by the militants. Turkish presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said talks were underway between his country and the Taliban about allowing Turkish civilian experts to help run the facility.

6:30 p.m. update:

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden vowed Thursday to complete the evacuation of American citizens and others from Afghanistan despite the deadly suicide bomb attack at the Kabul airport. He also promised to avenge the deaths, declaring to the extremists responsible: “We will hunt you down and make you pay.”

Speaking with emotion from the White House, Biden said the Islamic State group’s Afghanistan affiliate was to blame for the attacks that killed 12 American service members and many more Afghan civilians. He said there was no evidence they colluded with the Taliban, who now control the country.

“We have some reason to believe we know who they are,” he said of the bombers and gunmen involved. “Not certain.”

He said he had instructed military commanders to develop plans to strike IS “assets, leadership and facilities.”

The IS affiliate in Afghanistan has carried out many attacks on civilian targets in Afghanistan in recent years. It is far more radical than the Taliban, who seized power less than two weeks ago.

“We will respond with force and precision at our time, at the place of our choosing,” Biden said, adding, “These ISIS terrorists will not win. We will rescue the Americans; we will get our Afghan allies out, and our mission will go on. America will not be intimidated.”

Biden said U.S. military commanders in Afghanistan have told him it is important to complete the evacuation mission. “And we will,” he said, adding, “We will not be deterred by terrorists. We will not let them stop our mission.”

Indeed, Gen. Frank McKenzie, the Central Command chief who is overseeing the evacuation operation from his Florida headquarters, told a Pentagon news conference shortly before Biden spoke, “Let me be clear, while we are saddened by the loss of life, both U.S. and Afghan, we are continuing to execute the mission,.” He said there were about 5,000 evacuees on the airfield Thursday awaiting flights.

As many as 1,000 Americans and many more Afghans are still struggling to get out of Kabul.

Biden was briefed on the attacks, which came 12 days into the rushed evacuation and five days before its scheduled completion. Some Republicans and others have argued to extend the evacuation beyond next Tuesday’s deadline.

The administration has been widely blamed for a chaotic and deadly evacuation that began in earnest only after the collapse of the U.S.-backed Afghan government and the Taliban’s takeover of the country. More than 100,000 people have been evacuated so far, Afghans, Americans and others.

Thursday’s attacks were sure to intensify political pressure from all sides on Biden, who already was under heavy criticism for not beginning the pullout earlier. He had announced in April that he was ending the U.S. war and would have all forces out by September.

House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy of California called for Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., to bring the chamber back into session to consider legislation that would prohibit the U.S. withdrawal until all Americans are out. That’s highly unlikely, and Pelosi’s office dismissed such suggestions as “empty stunts.”

Gen. McKenzie said the military believes the attacks on the airport’s perimeter were carried out by fighters affiliated with the Islamic State group’s Afghanistan arm. He said more attempted attacks were expected.

After the suicide bomber’s attack at the airport’s Abbey Gate, a number of ISIS gunmen opened fire on civilians and military forces, he said. There also was an attack at or near the Baron Hotel near that gate, he said.

“We thought this would happen sooner or later,” McKenzie said, adding that U.S. military commanders were working with Taliban commanders to prevent further attacks.

McKenzie said that in addition to the 12 U.S. service members killed in the attacks, at least 15 were injured.

As details of the attacks emerged, the White House rescheduled Biden’s first in-person meeting with Israel’s new prime minister on Thursday and canceled a video conference with governors about resettling Afghan refugees arriving in the United States.

A number of U.S. allies said they were ending their evacuation efforts in Kabul, at least in part to give the U.S. the time it needs to wrap up its evacuation operations before getting more than 5,000 U.S. troops out by Tuesday.

Despite intense pressure to extend the deadline, Biden has repeatedly cited the threat of terrorist attacks against civilians and U.S. service members as a reason to keep to his plan.

In an interview with ABC News, Ross Wilson, the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, said, “There are safe ways to get to” the airport for those Americans who still want to leave. He added that “there undoubtedly will be” some at-risk Afghans who will not get out before Biden’s deadline.

The airlift continued Thursday despite warnings of vehicle-borne bomb threats near the airport. The White House said 13,400 people had been evacuated in the 24 hours that ended early Thursday morning Washington time. Those included 5,100 people aboard U.S. military planes and 8,300 on coalition and partner aircraft. That was a substantial drop from the 19,000 airlifted by all means the day before.

5:30 p.m. update:

(WJW)– President Joe Biden spoke from the White House following the deadly attack. He praised the U.S. service members on the ground in Afghanistan and the U.S. military.

“They are part of what I call the backbone of America, the spine of America. The best the country has to offer,” Biden said.

He said the U.S. remains steadfast in the mission to evacuate Americans and Afghans. Even in the midst of Thursday’s attacks, another 7,000 people were evacuated.

He reiterated what Gen. Frank McKenzie said earlier: That it’s in Taliban’s best interest that the U.S. is able to leave on time and ISIS-K does not expand.

“To those who carried out this attack, as well as anyone who wishes America harm, know this: We will not forgive. We will not forget. We will hunt you down and make you pay. I’ll defend our interests and our people with every measure at my command,” Biden said.

The President acknowledged the threat of further attacks will continue.

5:10 p.m. update:

(AP)— The Islamic State group’s affiliate in Afghanistan has claimed responsibility for the attack outside the Kabul airport. Afghan and U.S. officials said two suicide bombers and gunmen attacked crowds of Afghans flocking to Kabul’s airport on Thursday, killing at least 60 Afghans and 12 U.S. troops. The IS branch said it targeted American troops and their Afghan allies. The statement carried a photo of what the militant group said was the bomber who carried out the attack. The statement made no mention of a second suicide bomber or gunmen. The claim could not be independently verified.

4:30 p.m. update:

WASHINGTON (AP)—President Joe Biden is set to speak following the deadly explosions outside the airport in Kabul that killed 12 U.S. service members and scores of Afghans. The White House says Biden will address the nation from the White House at 5 p.m. on Thursday. Two suicide bombers and gunmen struck crowds of Afghans waiting in Kabul to flee life under the Taliban on departing flights. A U.S. operation airlifting American citizens and vulnerable Afghans to other countries is set to end Tuesday, a deadline set by Biden. The Islamic State group’s affiliate in Afghanistan has claimed responsibility for the attack. Biden has been criticized but is sticking to his deadline.

3:20 p.m. update:

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — An Afghan official says at least 60 Afghans were killed and another 143 were wounded in the attack outside Kabul airport. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief media. U.S. officials say 12 military service members were also killed in the attack outside the airport.

3:15 p.m. update:

(WJW)– Gen. Frank McKenzie, during a Pentagon news briefing, says 12 U.S. servicemembers were killed in the Kabul airport bombing and another 15 were injured. There was also a bombing at the nearby Baron Hotel. He would not confirm other attacks in Kabul.

The airport bombing happened at a gate, where U.S. servicemembers were conducting searches. People pass through a Taliban checkpoint first. McKenzie said of those searches, “Sometimes they’re good, sometimes they’re bad.”

The general says they anticipate more attempted attacks from ISIS and they’ve shared some intelligence with the Taliban, who agreed to close off more roads. He says the risk of a vehicle attack is high.

“We expect these attacks to continue,” McKenzie said. “The typical pattern is multiple attacks and we want to be ready for that.”

The U.S. is continuing evacuations at the airport with about 5,000 people waiting to board flights. About 104,000 people have safely passed through the gates before this attack, McKenzie says.

Satellite image shows Kabul International Airport and the location of an explosion near the Abbey Gate.

2:30 p.m. update:

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Two U.S, officials say at least 12 U.S. service members were killed in the Afghanistan bombings, including 11 Marines and one Navy medic.  Officials say a number of US military troops were wounded. They warn, however, that the numbers may grow.

1:20 p.m.:

(WJW)– Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby confirmed a number of U.S. service members were killed in the attack.

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the loved ones and teammates of all those killed and injured,” the Pentagon statement said.

1:15 p.m. update:

Four U.S. Marines are among the dead in the blasts at the Kabul airport on Thursday, the Wall Street Journal and Fox News reported. At least three other Marines were wounded.

1:10 p.m. update:

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Two suicide bombers and gunmen have targeted crowds of Afghans flocking to Kabul’s airport, in the waning days of a massive airlift that has drawn thousands of people seeking to flee the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan. Russian officials said at least 13 people were killed and 15 wounded. A U.S. official said the complex attack was believed to have been carried out by the Islamic State group, whose affiliate in Afghanistan grew out of disaffected Taliban members who hold an even more extreme view of Islam. Pentagon spokesman John Kirby confirmed the blasts, saying one was near an airport entrance and another was a short distance away by a hotel.

12:40 update:

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Taliban condemn bombing outside Kabul airport, say it happened in area controlled by US forces.

Taliban fighters stand on a pickup truck outside a hospital as volunteers bring injured people for treatment after two powerful explosions, which killed at least six people, outside the airport in Kabul on August 26, 2021. (Photo by WAKIL KOHSAR / AFP) (Photo by WAKIL KOHSAR/AFP via Getty Images)

12:38 p.m. update:

WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House hurriedly rearranged President Joe Biden’s schedule on Thursday after deadly explosions outside the airport in the Afghan capital. Throngs of people have been gathering outside the airport’s gates in hope of fleeing the country before next week. Biden was set to host new Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and meet virtually with a group of U.S. governors. Bennett was left to cool his heels after the White House delayed the meeting while Biden’s session with the governors also was canceled so the president could more closely monitor developments in Afghanistan.

12 p.m. update:

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — NATO chief has condemned the twin suicide bombings at the Kabul airport as a “horrific terrorist attack” that targeted desperate Afghans trying to leave the country and the alliance’s efforts to evacuate them from Afghanistan.

Jens Stoltenberg said on Twitter after the explosions on Thursday: “I strongly condemn the horrific terrorist attack outside #Kabul airport. My thoughts are with all those affected and their loved ones. Our priority remains to evacuate as many people to safety as quickly as possible.”

The bombings struck outside Kabul’s airport, where large crowds of people trying to flee Afghanistan have massed, killing at least 13 people and wounding 15, according to Russian officials. Western nations had warned earlier in the day of a possible attack at the airport in the waning days of a massive airlift.

11:30 a.m. update:

LONDON (AP)— A former Royal Marine who runs an animal shelter in Afghanistan says he and his staff were caught up in the aftermath of the explosion near the Kabul airport. Paul “Pen” Farthing said the group was outside the airport when the blast occurred on Thursday.

“We’re fine but everything is chaos here at the moment,” he told Britain’s Press Association news agency. “All of a sudden we heard gunshots and our vehicle was targeted, had our driver not turned around he would have been shot in the head by a man with an AK-47.

“We’ve been in the airport, and back out of the airport; the whole thing’s a mess,” he added.

11:21 a.m. update:

WASHINGTON (AP) — A U.S. official says the complex attack outside Kabul airport is “definitely believed” to have been carried out by the Islamic State group. The official says members of the U.S. military were wounded in Thursday’s attack, which involved two suicide bombers and gunmen. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss ongoing operations.

The Islamic State group is more radical than the Taliban and has carried out a wave of attacks targeting civilians. The official says evacuation flights have continued to take off from Kabul airport in the waning days of an airlift to help people flee the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan.

Medical and hospital staff bring an injured man on a stretcher for treatment after two blasts, which killed at least five and wounded a dozen, outside the airport in Kabul on August 26, 2021. (Photo by Wakil KOHSAR / AFP) (Photo by WAKIL KOHSAR/AFP via Getty Images)

10:59 a.m. update:

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Russia’s Foreign Ministry says a second explosion has gone off outside Kabul airport. The twin suicide attacks killed at least 13 people and wounded another 15.

U.S. officials said that American personnel were wounded in the blast, without elaborating. They spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss ongoing operations. The blasts happened outside the airport, where thousands of Afghans have gathered hoping to join a U.S.-led airlift after the Taliban takeover.

10:57 p.m. update:

(WJW)– Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby confirmed there were U.S. and civilian casualties in the explosion.

Smoke rises from explosion outside the airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, Thursday, Aug. 26, 2021. The explosion went off outside Kabul’s airport, where thousands of people have flocked as they try to flee the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan. Officials offered no casualty count, but a witness said several people appeared to have been killed or wounded Thursday. (AP Photo/Wali Sabawoon)

9:44 a.m. update:

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Pentagon press secretary spokesman John Kirby confirms there was an explosion outside the Kabul airport Thursday.

Western nations warned earlier in the day of a possible attack on the airport, where thousands have flocked as they try to flee Taliban-controlled Afghanistan in the waning days of a massive airlift. Britain said the attack could come within hours.

Several countries urged people to avoid the airport, where an official said there was a threat of a suicide bombing. But just days — or even hours for some nations — before the evacuation effort ends, few appeared to heed the call.

Over the last week, the airport has been the scene of some of the most searing images of the chaotic end of America’s longest war and the Taliban’s takeover, as flight after flight landed to pull out those who fear a return to the militants’ brutal rule.

Already, some countries have ended their evacuations and begun to withdraw their soldiers and diplomats, signaling the beginning of the end of one of history’s largest airlifts. The Taliban have so far honored a pledge not to attack Western forces during the evacuation, but insist the foreign troops must be out by America’s self-imposed deadline of Aug. 31.

But overnight, new warnings emerged from Western capitals about a threat from Afghanistan’s Islamic State group affiliate, which likely has seen its ranks boosted by the Taliban’s freeing of prisoners during their blitz across the country.

British Armed Forces Minister James Heappey told the BBC on Thursday there was ”very, very credible reporting of an imminent attack” at the airport, possibly within “hours.”

Heappey conceded that people are desperate to leave and “there is an appetite by many in the queue to take their chances, but the reporting of this threat is very credible indeed and there is a real imminence to it.”

“There is every chance that as further reporting comes in, we may be able to change the advice again and process people anew, but there’s no guarantee of that,” he added.

Late Wednesday, the U.S. Embassy warned citizens at three airport gates to leave immediately due to an unspecified security threat. Australia, Britain and New Zealand also advised their citizens Thursday not to go to the airport, with Australia’s foreign minister saying there was a “very high threat of a terrorist attack.”

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid denied that any attack was imminent. “It’s not correct,” he wrote in a text message after being asked about the warnings. He did not elaborate.

On Thursday, the Taliban sprayed a water cannon at those gathered at one airport gate to try to drive the crowd away, as someone launched tear gas canisters elsewhere. While some fled, others just sat on the ground, covered their face and waited in the noxious fumes.

Nadia Sadat, a 27-year-old Afghan woman, carried her 2-year-old daughter with her outside the airport. She and her husband, who had worked with coalition forces, missed a call from a number they believed was the State Department and were trying to get into the airport without any luck. Her husband had pressed ahead in the crowd to try to get them inside.

“We have to find a way to evacuate because our lives are in danger,” Sadat said. “My husband received several threatening messages from unknown sources. We have no chance except escaping.”

Gunshots later echoed in the area as Sadat waited. “There is anarchy because of immense crowds, she said, blaming the U.S. for the chaos.

Aman Karimi, 50, escorted his daughter and her family to the airport, fearful the Taliban would target her because of her husband’s work with NATO.

“The Taliban have already begun seeking those who have worked with NATO,” he said. “They are looking for them house-by-house at night.”

Many Afghans have felt the same in the wake of the Taliban’s takeover. The hard-line Islamic group wrested back control of the country nearly 20 years after being ousted in a U.S.-led invasion following the 9/11 attacks, which al-Qaida orchestrated while being sheltered by the group.

Amid concerns about attacks, military cargo planes leaving Kabul airport already use flares to disrupt any potential missile fire. But there are also worries someone could detonate explosives in the teeming crowds outside the airport.

“We received information at the military level from the United States, but also from other countries, that there were indications that there was a threat of suicide attacks on the mass of people,” Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said, talking about the threat around Kabul airport.

Senior U.S. officials said Wednesday’s warning from the embassy was related to specific threats involving the Islamic State group and potential vehicle bombs. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss ongoing military operations.

The Islamic State affiliate in Afghanistan grew out of disaffected Taliban members who hold an even-more extreme view of Islam. Naming themselves after Khorasan, a historic name for the greater region, the extremists embarked on a series of brutal attacks in Afghanistan that included a 2020 assault on a maternity hospital in Kabul that saw infants and women killed.

The Taliban have fought against Islamic State militants in Afghanistan. However, their advance across the country likely saw IS fighters freed alongside the Taliban’s own. There are particular concerns that extremists may have seized heavy weapons and equipment abandoned by Afghan troops who fled the Taliban advance.

Amid the warnings and the pending American withdrawal, Canada ended its evacuations as European nations did or prepared to do the same.

Lt. Col. Georges Eiden, Luxembourg’s army representative in neighboring Pakistan, said that Friday would mark the official end for U.S. allies, though some have stopped earlier.

“The Americans want to take advantage of the last four days they have left and were given by the Taliban to bring out a maximum of Americans,” he said.

French Prime Minister Jean Castex also told RTL radio said his country’s efforts would stop Friday evening.

Danish Defense Minister Trine Bramsen bluntly warned: “It is no longer safe to fly in or out of Kabul.”

Denmark’s last flight has already departed, and Poland and Belgium have also announced the end of their evacuations. The Dutch government said it had been told by the U.S. to leave Thursday.

The Taliban have said they’ll allow Afghans to leave via commercial flights after the deadline next week, but it remains unclear which airlines would return to an airport controlled by the militants. Turkish presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said talks were underway between his country and the Taliban about allowing Turkish civilian experts to help run the facility.

The Taliban have promised to return Afghanistan to security and pledged they won’t seek revenge on those who opposed them or roll back progress on human rights. But many Afghans are skeptical.

Fueling fears of what Taliban rule might hold, a journalist from private broadcaster Tolo News described being beaten by Taliban. Ziar Yad said the fighters also beat his colleague and confiscated their cameras, technical equipment and a mobile phone as they tried to report on poverty in Kabul.

“The issue has been shared with Taliban leaders; however, the perpetrators have not yet been arrested, which is a serious threat to freedom of expression,” Yad wrote on Twitter.

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