The death toll in Thursday’s terrorist attack in Kabul, Afghanistan, rose overnight, and more than 200 people are now believed dead from a suicide bombing near Hamid Karzai International Airport, where many were desperately trying to escape the country on final evacuation flights. Although the Pentagon initially said there were two explosions, they walked back the claim Friday afternoon and said it was only one.
“The death toll in a pair of suicide bombings that rocked Kabul yesterday has now risen to nearly 200 on Friday as evacuation flights remain ongoing,” Fox News reported early Friday. “169 Afghans were killed according to two officials who spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity. The U.S. said 13 service members were killed in the deadliest day for American forces in Afghanistan since August 2011.”
Information on casualties has been slow in coming. At the end of the day Thursday, the death toll was still under 100. A reporter for the New York Times, on the ground in Kabul, cautioned that the Taliban appeared to be instructing Kabul’s health care workers not to release timely and accurate death counts, which could mean that deaths are undercounted.
Related: Death Toll Rises From Kabul Suicide Bombing; Pentagon Walks Back Second Explosion Claim
A United States official also told Fox News that the “death toll for the attack could climb higher still” “because some people may have taken bodies away from the scene before they could be counted.”
As of Thursday evening, 13 U.S. service members had been killed in the attack, and 20 were injured — at least half of those are reportedly in critical condition.
The terror attack took place just outside the crowded HKIA airfield, where thousands of Afghans, U.S. citizens, green card holders, and foreign nationals have crowded since earlier this month when the Taliban blitzed into Kabul and retook Afghanistan’s capital city. The U.S. and coalition partners have helped evacuate around 100,000 people after making a shocking miscalculation about the Taliban’s military abilities, flying around 5,000 Americans and many more Afghan allies out of HKIA in recent days.
The U.S. admitted Thursday that it had been relying on the Taliban as a “security partner” in handling evacuations, though, in recent days, reports have emerged of the Taliban blocking all but American nationals from entering airport grounds. The suicide bomber was reportedly able to slip past Taliban soldiers, making it all the way through to the final checkpoints before entering HKIA. A second bomber targeted the Baron Hotel, reportedly the most secure lodgings in Kabul, where Americans who had been stranded in Kabul were reportedly awaiting evacuation.
ISIS-K, a Taliban splinter group that has been active in the country, took responsibility for the attack Thursday night. The United States warned Friday that more terror attacks are likely on the horizon, CNBC reported.
“We believe it is their desire to continue those attacks and we expect those attacks to continue,” Marine Corps General Kenneth McKenzie, commander of U.S. Central Command said in a Pentagon briefing on Thursday, adding that there is an “extremely active threat stream against the airfield.”
“So very, very real threat streams, what we would call tactical that means imminent, could occur at any moment,” he said.
President Joe Biden pledged to continue the evacuation process late Thursday, saying that the U.S. “will not be deterred by terrorists. We will not let them stop our mission. We will continue the evacuation,” but outlets on the ground late Thursday reported that some gates of HKIA were being “welded shut,” and the U.S. military was moving up the timeline for getting forces out of Kabul. The Daily Wire reported earlier Thursday that the 82nd Airborne Division was moving out ahead of schedule.
This article has been updated to include additional information.