Afghan evacuations wind down at Kabul airport 

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(BBC NEWS) The US is continuing evacuations from Kabul airport at a “very fast pace”, officials say, as the 31 August deadline to leave Afghanistan nears.

The final British flight carrying only Afghan civilians left on Saturday, but some military flights this weekend may also take some civilian evacuees.

US military officials say a serious threat of a further attack remains, following Thursday’s bombing in which as many as 170 people died.

The IS-K group has claimed the attack.


Pentagon officials said a US drone strike in eastern Afghanistan late on Friday killed two “high-profile” members of IS-K – the Islamic State (IS) group in Khorasan Province.

The two are described as a planner and a facilitator. It is unclear whether they were directly involved in planning the suicide bombing at Kabul airport.

The Taliban condemned the air strike, saying the Americans should have consulted them first, a spokesman told Reuters news agency.

IS-K is the most extreme and violent of all the jihadist militant groups in Afghanistan and has major differences with the Taliban. It accuses them of abandoning the battlefield in favour of a negotiated peace settlement with the Americans.

US troops have begun their withdrawal from the airport – their numbers are now down to 4,000, from a peak of 5,800 in the past week.

The next few days were likely to be the most dangerous since the evacuation began, White House officials said.

The Taliban have set up further layers of checkpoints around the airport and are not allowing most Afghans through, the Associated Press (AP) reports.

On Saturday, Italy’s final flight from Afghanistan arrived in Rome. Italy said it had evacuated almost 5,000 Afghan citizens from Kabul – the highest number of any EU country.

France said it had flown out more than 2,800 since 17 August, while Germany said it had taken about 4,000 Afghans.

The head of the UK’s armed forces, General Sir Nick Carter, said it was “heartbreaking” that they had not been able to rescue everyone.

With the possibility of leaving by air now dwindling, many Afghans are reportedly now trying to escape the country via the land border with Pakistan, to the east.

The border gates near the southern town of Spin Boldak are open and some people have been making it through. One of the main border crossings, at Torkham, is closed.

Since the Taliban took Kabul on 15 August, the Afghan economy has been in freefall as aid donors freeze funds and panicked depositors seek to withdraw their money from banks.

On Saturday crowds of protesters gathered outside banks in the Afghan capital.

“If the situation continues and employees of the government don’t get their salaries and a businessman cannot get his money from the bank for trading, the result of this is very horrible, and there will be poverty in the society as well, and no one can solve that issue,” one man told Reuters.

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