Rockets hit neighbourhood near Kabul airport amid US pullout

Rockets hit neighbourhood near Kabul airport amid US pullout

Rockets struck a neighbourhood near Kabul’s international airport on Monday amid the ongoing US withdrawal from Afghanistan. It wasn’t immediately clear who launched them.

The rockets struck on Monday morning in Kabul’s Salim Karwan neighbourhood, witnesses said. Gunfire immediately followed the explosions but it was not immediately clear who was firing.

The witnesses, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals, said they heard the sound of three explosions and then saw a flash in the sky. People fled after the blasts, they said.

US officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment. US military cargo planes continued their evacuations at the airport after the rocket fire.

In Washington, the White House issued a statement saying officials briefed President Joe Biden on “the rocket attack at Hamid Karzai International Airport (HKIA)” in Kabul.

“The president was informed that operations continue uninterrupted at HKIA, and has reconfirmed his order that commanders redouble their efforts to prioritise doing whatever is necessary to protect our forces on the ground,” the statement said.

On Sunday, a US drone strike blew up a vehicle carrying “multiple suicide bombers” from Afghanistan’s Islamic State (IS) affiliate on Sunday before they could attack the ongoing military evacuation at Kabul’s international airport, American officials said. An Afghan official said three children were killed in the strike.

The US is to withdraw from Afghanistan by Tuesday. By then, the US is set to conclude a massive two-week-long airlift of more than 114,000 Afghans and foreigners and withdraw the last of its troops, ending America’s longest war with the Taliban back in power.

The US State Department released a statement on Sunday signed by around 100 countries, as well as Nato and the European Union, saying they had received “assurances” from the Taliban that people with travel documents would still be able to leave the country. The Taliban have said they will allow normal travel after the US withdrawal is completed on Tuesday and they assume control of the airport.

However, Afghans remain fearful of the Taliban returning to the oppressive rule for which they were once known. There have been sporadic reports of killings and other abuses in the sweep across the country.

Earlier this week, an IS suicide attack outside the airport killed at least 169 Afghans and 13 US service members. The US carried out a drone strike elsewhere in the country on Saturday that it said killed two members of IS’ local affiliate in Afghanistan, which has battled the Taliban in the past.

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