Several rockets were fired targeting US troops at Kabul’s international airport, a day before the deadline for the US servicemen to pull out of Afghanistan ends.
A US official said the anti-missile defences intercepted the rockets fired early on Monday, as Washington flew its core diplomats out of Afghanistan in the final hours of withdrawal.
According to Afghan media reports, the attack was launched from the back of a vehicle. The Pajhwok news agency said several rockets struck different parts of the Afghan capital.
Initial reports did not indicate any US casualties, the US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters.
The ISIL (ISIS) militant group claimed responsibility for the attack Monday, the group’s Nasher News said on its Telegram channel, adding that six Katyusha rockets were fired at the airport.
“By the grace of God Almighty, the soldiers of the Caliphate targeted Kabul International Airport with six Katyusha rockets,” it said.
The attack followed a huge Islamic State suicide bombing outside the airport gates on Thursday that killed scores of Afghans and 13 US troops and another reported attempted bombing on Sunday.
The White House, which confirmed the attack, said evacuation operations at the airport were not interrupted, adding that US President Joe Biden was briefed about the latest rocket attack on Monday morning.
The US and allied forces have evacuated about 114,400 people, including foreign nationals and Afghans ‘at risk’, in an effort that began a day before Kabul fell to the Taliban on August 15.
The forces themselves are due to pull out by a Tuesday deadline agreed with the Islamist militants.
According to a Reuters report, President Joe Biden reconfirmed his order for commanders to do “whatever is necessary to protect our forces on the ground” after he was briefed on the rocket attack.
On Sunday, Pentagon officials said a US drone strike here killed a suicide car bomber who had been preparing to attack the airport on behalf of ISIS-K, a local affiliate of Islamic State that is an enemy of both the West and the Taliban.
Afghans fearful of reprisals under Taliban rule continued to crowd the airport, appealing to foreign powers for a way out.
“We are in danger,” said one woman outside the airport. “They must show us a way to be saved. We must leave Afghanistan or they must provide a safe place for us.”
Two US officials told Reuters evacuations would continue on Monday, prioritising people deemed at extreme risk. Other countries have also put in last-minute requests to bring out people in that category, the officials said.
The Taliban will take full control of Kabul airport after the American withdrawal on Tuesday, Qatar’s Al Jazeera television network cited an unidentified Taliban source as saying.
As the evacuations wind down, a “far greater humanitarian crisis” looms ahead for the nation of 39 million people, the UN refugee agency warned.
Agency chief Filippo Grandi reiterated a call for borders to remain open and for more countries to share the “humanitarian responsibility” of accepting refugees with Iran and Pakistan, which already host 2.2 million Afghans.
“More resettlement options are sorely needed. They are critically important, not only to save lives but also as a demonstration of good will,” added Grandi, whose agency said last week that up to 500,000 Afghans could flee by year-end.