POLITICS
26/08/2021 08:42 BST

Terror Attack In Kabul Airport Possible Within 'Hours', Says Defence Minister

James Heappey says threat to Afghanistan evacuation effort is “imminent” and “severe”.

Armed forces minister James Heappey has said a terror attack in Kabul could come within “hours”.

 UK nationals near the Afghan capital’s airport were last night told leave and find a place of safety, as the evacuation effort grew increasingly desperate.

Eligible Afghans hoping to seek asylum in the UK would be better off now heading for Afghanistan’s border and trying to make their way to a third country, defence secretary Ben Wallace was reported to have told MPs.

Speaking to LBC on Thursday morning, Heappey said he had been prepared for what to say if an attack had happened while he was giving the interview.

“I don’t think everybody should be surprised by this, Daesh, or Islamic State, are guilty of all sorts of evil.

“But the opportunism of wanting to target a major international humanitarian mission is just utterly deplorable but sadly true to form for an organisation as barbarous as Daesh.”

In a separate interview with BBC Radio 4′s Today programme, Heappey said there was “very credible reporting” of an “imminent” and “severe” terror attack at Kabul airport.

And he said the “window of opportunity to evacuate people is closing”, amid suggestions today could be the last day of British evacuation flights.

“It’s not as simply a case of we can pause, deal with the threat and pick up where we left off,” Heappey said.

He added there would be 11 more flights out of Kabul today but declined to say whether there will be more on Friday, citing the security of troops.

Latest figures from the Ministry of Defence (MoD) showed that 11,474 people had been able to leave the country since the evacuation mission Operation Pitting began on August 13.

This includes embassy staff, British nationals, those eligible under the Afghan relocation and assistance policy (Arap) programme, as well as some evacuees from allied countries.

But the end of the operation is rapidly approaching after President Joe Biden rejected calls from Boris Johnson and other allies to delay his August 31 withdrawal date for the remaining US troops, who are providing security at Kabul airport.