Survivors retell their traumatic experiences after militants launched double-suicide bombings and a gunfight on Hamid Karzai International Airport on Aug. 26, claiming the lives of over 100 people, including 13 US servicemen.
The ISIS-K group, a regional affiliate of the larger Islamic State terrorist organization centered in Afghanistan, claimed responsibility for the attacks. While the US remained committed to the evacuation of its forces from Afghanistan, it appears to maintain its stance against ISIS-K following the Kabul airport attacks.
For the surviving victims of the attack, the horrid ordeal would leave mental scars etched in their memories.
‘I saw doomsday’
One witness interviewed by Reuters, who wished to remain anonymous, described the scene he was in. He was among thousands of people around the airport desperately waiting to board a flight to evacuate the country.
The man was waiting in a queue near the airport’s Abbey Gate for ten hours when a sudden powerful explosion rocked the crowd at around 5 p.m.
“It was as if someone pulled the ground from under my feet,” said the man. “For a moment I thought my eardrums were blasted and I lost my sense of hearing.”
The man also vividly remembered the violent aftermath of the blast, as many of his fellow people were brutally killed in the carnage.
“I saw bodies and body parts flying in the air like a tornado taking plastic bags… into the air. I saw bodies, body parts, elderly and injured men, women and children scattered in the blast site.”
“Dead bodies and wounded were lying in the road and in the sewage canal. The little water flowing into it had turned into blood.”
For the man, the violence of the explosion and the bloodstained and mutilated corpses was something of an apocalyptic nightmare.
“It is not possible to see doomsday in this life, but today I saw doomsday, I witnessed it with my own eyes,” added the witness. “Physically, I am OK… but I don’t think the mental wound and the shock I sustained from today’s blast will ever let me live a normal life.”
Bloodied victims were carried away on wheelbarrows and widespread panic unfolded around the Emergency Hospital in Kabul.
Emergency workers raced to tend to the wounded, placing them into cars and other vehicles not officially meant for emergency services.
The head of the humanitarian non-governmental organization (NGO), Emergency, told NPR that on Aug. 26, their hospitals were already almost full before the victims of the explosion arrived.
On that day, 1TV News, an Afghan media outlet, confirmed that over 30 victims arrived at the hospital, and six of them were pronounced dead on arrival.
Chaos at the airport
Other witnesses have also shared their harrowing stories of the event. “People were burning alive, people could not breathe,” said one witness to The Washington Post.
“Dead people were everywhere. I saw a woman in blood, wrapped up in a blanket covered in blood,” said another witness.
According to a third witness, the Taliban was to blame for the deaths of fellow Afghans, as they were fully responsible for the security of the airport after Turkish forces fled the area.
“The Taliban then started firing in the air to disperse the crowd,” said another witness to Agence France-Presse (AFP). “I saw a man rushing with an injured baby in his hands.”
The organization promised retaliation against ISIS-K militants in an attempt to reassure Afghans that they would “respect their rights.” However, their reputation for violence and extremism has proven otherwise.
All witnesses who spoke about their ordeals chose to speak anonymously for fear that the Taliban would target them.