Explosion Confirmed Outside Kabul's Airport After Officials Warn of 'Credible' Threat

An explosion erupted Thursday morning outside of Afghanistan's Kabul airport amid the massive U.S. evacuation effort there. General Kenneth McKenzie, commander of the United States Central Command, confirmed that 12 service members were killed and 15 were wounded. Officials are still calculating the total loss of life among U.S. military members and civilians.

Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, said on Twitter that the country's Islamic emirate "strongly condemns the bombing of civilians" at the airport. "The Islamic Emirate is paying close attention to the security and protection of its people, and evil circles will be strictly stopped," he wrote.

The blast came amid concerns about a threat from the Islamic State militant group, or ISIS, targeting the large crowds around the airport, potentially hampering the Biden administration's efforts to evacuate tens of thousands of Americans and Afghan allies.

Pentagon press secretary John Kirby confirmed that the explosion occurred near the airport's Abbey Gate and promised to provide additional details when the Defense Department is able to.

Kirby said a second explosion occurred at or near the Baron Hotel, located about a mile from the airport. He also confirmed that the blast at the airport's Abbey Gate was part of a "complex attack" that resulted in multiple U.S. military and civilian casualties.

Afghans and Americans trying to flee the country after the Taliban's recent takeover have gathered at the airport for days. Several countries are urging people to avoid the airport because of a suicide bombing threat, but people continue to gather, hoping to get on a flight.

"There is now very, very credible reporting of an imminent attack and hence why the Foreign Office advice was changed last night, that people should not come to Kabul airport. They should move to a safe place and await further instructions," James Heappey, British armed forces minister, told BBC radio on Thursday.

afghanistan explosion
The Pentagon has confirmed there were two powerful explosions in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Thursday morning, with the number of casualties not yet known. Above, medical staffers bring an injured man to a hospital in an ambulance. Wakil Kohsar/AFP/Getty Images

It's unclear at this time if the ISIS threat officials warned about has any connection to the explosion outside the airport.

After the "large explosion" and reports of gunfire, the U.S. State Department advised American citizens to "avoid traveling to the airport and avoid airport gates." Those already at the airport at the Abbey Gate, East Gate or North Gate were told to "leave immediately."

Officials haven't confirmed any injuries or casualties yet, but Adam Khan, an Afghan, told the Associated Press several people appeared to be killed or wounded. Some people appeared to have body parts missing.

British troops are also stationed at the airport, and the United Kingdom's Ministry of Defense said its primary concern was the safety of its personnel, British citizens and Afghans.

"We are in close contact with our U.S. and other NATO allies at an operational level on the immediate response to this incident," the Defense Ministry said.

Update (August 26, 3:04 p.m. ET): This story was updated with casualty numbers, a Taliban spokesperson's comment and additional background.