Dominic Raab shuts down claims UK is to blame for Kabul deaths
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The Pentagon claimed they argued to shut down the airport gate that later became the site of the attack by a suicide bomber, but Britain refused. According to leaked transcripts seen by Politico, Pentagon officials predicted a “mass casualty” attack at Hamid Karzai International Airport and warned that the Abbey Gate was the “highest risk” during a meeting 24 hours before the attack.
On Thursday, American commanders set out plans to close the gate, but say Britain wanted to keep it open to continue with evacuation efforts.
Six hours later, an ISIS-K terrorist wearing a suicide vest killed himself and nearly 200 others at Abbey gate, blasting people into the sewage canal adjacent.
Boris Johnson has strongly denied accusations that Britain asked the US to keep a gate at Kabul airport open despite military intelligence advising a terrorist attack was imminent.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “It’s simply not true to suggest that we pushed to keep the gate open.”
“In response to the change in travel advice ahead of the attack last week, the UK moved operations out of the Baron Hotel.”
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said the Pentagon’s claim was “just not true”.
He added: “We co-ordinated very closely with the US, in particular around the Isis-K threat which we anticipated, although tragically were not able to prevent, but it is certainly right to say we got our civilians out of the processing centre by Abbey Gate.”
But, on Tuesday, BBC Newsnight exposed emails showing that Afghan nationals were instructed by officials at the British embassy to go to Abbey Gate on the day of the suicide attack, after the UK foreign office had issued guidance warning people not to go near Kabul airport.
The emails sent by the British embassy told people to “use the Abbey Gate [near] to the Baron Hotel”, and another email asked a former Afghan interpreter whether he was in the right place.
It read: “Please advise that you are at the correct gate? Abbey Gate on hawa on Shawasi Street.”
A former interpreter, who had received the emails, said: “If I had followed their advice, I would be no more.
“I said I won’t because I don’t feel safe as the situation was getting worse.”
“It would be madness to go there and that saved my life.
“It was our own judgement that saved our lives.”
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Mohammad Niazi, an Uber driver from Hampshire, Musa Popal, a shopkeeper from north London, and a British child were among those who died in the Kabul attack.
Zohra Popal said her father was waving his British passport at US troops when the explosion occurred.
Ms Popal said her mother survived the blast, but Mr Popal’s 14-year-old grandson Hameed was still missing.
She said: “My mother, she had to crawl away, covered in blood and pieces of people. She saw everything.
“There was blood everywhere, she told us, and they were slipping in it when they were trying to get up.
“It was so loud that some of them are still deaf and can’t hear each other. It was a living nightmare for them.”
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Ms Popal said her mother’s documents had been destroyed in the bombing, and that she is still in danger, stranded after the UK’s full withdrawal on Saturday.
Survivors of the blast accused American troops of opening fire on the thousands of evacuees, after the suicide bomb went off.
Mr Niazi’s brother, Abdul Hamid, said he was killed during the firing in the aftermath of the blast.
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The allegations made by the US, placing blame for the attack on the UK, are one part of a wider debate around President Biden’s decision to continue full withdrawal of American troops by September.
Mr Biden has received a tidal wave of criticism during the last month as a retreat of American troops empowered the Taliban to rise up and overthrow the Afghan government.
Many argue that blame for the terror attack at Kabul, which killed 13 American soldiers, rests squarely on his shoulders.
Texas Republican Tony Gonzales, a Navy veteran, tweeted: “President Biden’s shameful handling of the withdrawal in Afghanistan has now led to US personnel being wounded in a terrorist attack in Kabul.”
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The evacuation deadline was negotiated with the Taliban by the US, and the UK were forced to evacuate citizens in a short space of time.
Dominic Raab has claimed that hundreds of UK nationals have been left behind, but reports have suggested that this figure could be around 8,000.
Lisa Nandy, Shadow Foreign Secretary, blasted the Conservative government over the chaotic and unorganised evacuation of British nationals and vulnerable Afghans who worked alongside Britain.
She wrote on Twitter: “They had 18 months to plan for evacuation, but the Foreign Secretary hadn’t spoken to the Afghan or Pakistani Foreign Ministers for six months. With thousands left behind, this is utterly shameful.”
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