Shots have been fired at an Italian military aircraft as it departs Taliban occupied Afghanistan, a source at Italy’s Defence Ministry said. An Italian journalist traveling on the flight told Sky 24 TG that the plane had been carrying almost 100 Afghan civilians when it came under fire minutes after take off. The plane was not believed to have sustained damage in the attack. This alarming escalation comes as UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson warns time is running out to evacuate the thousands of eligible vulnerable Afghans stuck outside the Kabul airport gates fearing for their lives. Mr Johnson promised that in the remaining hours UK forces will “do everything we can to get everybody else”.
Meanwhile, ISIS-K, a local branch of the notorious global terrorism organisation, is amassing thousands of fighters to topple the “liberal” Taliban – and they will target Westerners to do it.
Founded in 2015, ISIS-K’s aim is to establish an Islamic caliphate across Khorasan – a region covering Pakistan and Afghanistan and parts of central Asia.
Its fighters – who view the Taliban as too liberal – are thought to number up to 2,200, but this figure could rise dramatically amid political uncertainty.
There are now concerns from the Western superpowers that ISIS-K will launch a wave of terror attacks in an attempt to destabilise the Taliban’s efforts to form a government, with potential evacuees representing high profile targets.
In a statement released last night, the UK Foreign Office warned UK nationals not to travel to Kabul airport amid a rapidly escalating terrorism threat and unstable security situation.
The guidance now advises anyone in the area to “move away to a safe location and await further advice”.
Armed forces minister James Heappey described the terror threat to people outside Kabul airport as “lethal” amid concerns over an affiliate of the so-called Islamic State in Afghanistan, ISIS-K.
He told BBC Breakfast: “I can’t stress the desperation of the situation enough, the threat is credible, it is imminent, it is lethal.
“And we wouldn’t be saying this if we weren’t genuinely concerned about offering Islamic State a target.”
Australia and the US have also issued alerts, telling everyone outside the airport to leave immediately.
With the withdrawal deadline looming, August 31, the terror threat poses a serious challenge to the evacuation goals of the West.
In a statement released on Tuesday night, the US President said: “Every day we’re on the ground is another day we know that ISIS-K is seeking to target the airport and attack both US and allied forces and innocent civilians.”
Kabul airport is currently being held by the US military, which has 5,800 troops on the ground organising the evacuation of tens of thousands of Afghans at risk of being tortured or killed by the Taliban or other militant groups.
ISIS-K, who also train child soldiers known as the “cubs of the caliphates”, have carried out a string of high-profile terror attacks in their region and will be aware their window of opportunity to strike the West in Afghanistan is closing.
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