(Reuters) – The United Kingdom said on Thursday it had evacuated more than 13,000 people from Afghanistan, with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson saying his government would continue with its evacuation operation in Kabul after an attack near the airport.
“The military evacuation of Afghan and British nationals, under Operation PITTING, has so far extracted 13,146 people out of Kabul since the mission began on Friday 13 August,” Britain’s Ministry of Defence said in a statement late on Thursday.
The total included embassy staff, British nationals, those eligible under the Afghan Relocation and Assistance Policy programme and a number of nationals from partner nations, the statement added.
A suicide bomb attack on Thursday claimed by Islamic State on the crowded gates of Kabul airport killed scores of civilians and 12 U.S. troops, throwing into mayhem the airlift of tens of thousands of Afghans desperate to flee.
After Johnson chaired an emergency response meeting on the situation in Afghanistan, he said Britain’s airlift would continue “going up until the last moment”.
Britain’s Foreign Office issued a new advisory late on Thursday saying there was a “high threat of terrorist attack” around the Kabul airport.
The Taliban seized power in Afghanistan earlier this month from a U.S.-backed government, sending thousands fleeing and potentially heralding a return to the militants’ austere and autocratic rule of two decades ago.
(Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Bengaluru; Editing by Peter Cooney)