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Dozens Killed In Twin Attack On Kabul Airport In Afghanistan

A twin suicide bombing attack in Kabul claimed by Islamic State has killed 12 US troops and wounded 15 others, a top US general says, adding that American forces anticipated more attacks even as evacuations continued.

Thursday's attack marked the first US military casualties in Afghanistan since February 2020 and represented the deadliest incident for American troops in the country in a decade.

At least two explosions tore through crowds that had thronged the gates of Hamid Karzai International Airport desperate to leave Afghanistan since the Taliban seized power almost two weeks ago ahead of US President Joe Biden's August 31 deadline to withdraw American troops after two decades.

In a statement, the Afghan affiliate of Islamic State - known as Islamic State Khorasan (ISIS-K) - claimed responsibility and said one of its suicide bombers had targeted "translators and collaborators with the American army".

Marine Corps General Frank McKenzie, head of the US military's Central Command, told a news briefing the explosions were followed by gunfight. McKenzie said the threat from Islamic State persists alongside "other active threat streams".

"We believe it is their desire to continue these attacks and we expect those attacks to continue - and we're doing everything we can to be prepared," McKenzie said.

McKenzie added that future potential attacks could include rockets being fired at the airport or car bombs attempting to get in. McKenzie said he saw nothing that would convince him that Taliban forces had let the attack take place.

US officials said one bomb detonated near the airport's Abbey Gate and the other was close to the nearby Baron Hotel.

A massive airlift of US and other foreign nationals and their families as well as some Afghans has been under way since the day before Taliban forces captured Kabul on August 15, capping a swift advance across the country as American and allied troops withdrew.

The US has been racing to carry out the airlift before its military is set to fully withdraw from the country by August 31. McKenzie said the evacuation mission was not going to stop.

"I think we can continue to conduct our mission, even while we are receiving attacks like this," McKenzie said, adding that US forces will go after the perpetrators of Thursday's attack.

McKenzie said there were about 1000 US citizens estimated to be still in Afghanistan. A spokesman for the State Department said more than two-thirds of these Americans had informed it they were taking steps to leave Afghanistan.

Islamic State militants have emerged in Afghanistan as enemies both of the West and the Taliban. A 2001 US-led invasion toppled the Taliban from power after the group had harboured the al Qaeda militants responsible for the September 11 attacks on the US. The US military death toll in the Afghanistan war since 2001 stood at about 2500.

Afghan health officials were quoted as saying 60 civilians died, but it was not clear whether that was a complete count. Video uploaded by Afghan journalists showed dozens of bodies and wounded victims strewn around a canal on the edge of the airport.

US officials have said there are about 5200 American troops providing airport security. The attacks came after the United States and allies had urged Afghans to leave the area around the airport because of a threat by Islamic State.

The US Embassy in Kabul a day earlier had advised Americans to avoid travelling to the airport and said those already at the gates should leave immediately, citing unspecified "security threats."

The US and its allies have mounted one of the biggest air evacuations in history, bringing out about 95,700 people, including 13,400 on Wednesday, according to the White House.