UK nationals flee to safety as terrorism fears pile on extra pressure ahead of Afghanistan evacuation deadline

The Foreign Office has warned of a “high threat of a terrorist attack” around Kabul airport

The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) warned of an “ongoing and high threat of terrorist attack” at Hamid Karzai International Airport on Wednesday night, as officials told UK nationals near the airport to leave and find a place of safety.

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At a glance: 5 key points

  • Eligible Afghans hoping to seek asylum in the UK would be better off now heading for Afghanistan’s border and trying to make their way to a third country, the Defence Secretary was reported to have told MPs
  • Crowding has been a challenge for troops to manage as they attempted to evacuate as many people as possible
  • Now, an attack is feared, prompting instructions to stay away from the airport
  • The Guardian reported that the concerns surrounded so-called Islamic State splinter cell, Isis-K, an enemy of the Taliban
  • On Sunday, US President Joe Biden’s national security adviser Jake Sullivan said the threat from the group at the airport was “real, acute” and “persistent”

What’s been said

Lieutenant Colonel Benjamin Caesar, a trauma and orthopaedic surgeon from 16 Medical Regiment, Royal Army Medical Corps, has been based at Kabul airport and had treated gunshot injuries, flashbang injuries, and people who have been crushed in the crowd.

Lt Col Caesar said: “The numbers of people coming through went probably much higher than we anticipated, I don’t think anyone foresaw the crushing sea of humanity at the gate and how they were going to be affected by the situation.”

“There have also been an unexpectedly high number of children being passed to us and being dealt with by the hospital.”

Background

The Government has previously said it will increase diplomatic support in neighbouring countries to process refugees who escape from Afghanistan.

The warning to stay away from Kabul airport is a change in tone from a week ago when Boris Johnson said the situation had been stabilising.

Latest figures from the Ministry of Defence (MoD) showed that 11,474 people had been able to leave the country since the evacuation mission Operation Pitting began on August 13.

They have been assessed as eligible under the Afghan relocations and assistance policy (Arap) and have passed security checks but remain on the ground, the PA news agency understands.

A timetable for British troops to halt evacuations and begin their own exit has not been set out but is likely to come ahead of the departure of their US counterparts.

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