According to British Armed Forces Minister James Heappey, there is “very, very reliable” evidence that militants are plotting an impending attack on civilians assembling at Kabul airport in an attempt to exit Afghanistan.
The British foreign ministry encouraged people not to travel to the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, where hundreds of Afghans are waiting for flights out of the country ahead of an August 31 deadline when the US and its partners will withdraw their remaining troops.
Mr. Heappey stated that information about a planned suicide bombing by Islamic State terrorists had gotten “far solid.”
“There is now very, very credible reporting of an imminent attack, and hence why the Foreign Office advice was changed last night, that people should not come to Kabul Airport, they should move to a safe place and await further instructions,” Mr Heappey told BBC radio.
“I think there is an appetite amongst many in the queue to take their chances, but the reporting of this threat is very credible indeed. There is a real imminence to it.”
He said that Western nations were relying on the Taliban for security outside the airport and that despite the warnings there were a large number of people still waiting there.
“I can only say that the threat is severe. We will do our best to protect those who are there,” he said.
“There is every chance that as further reporting comes in, we may be able to change the advice and process people anew, but there is no guarantee of that.”
Earlier on Thursday, the federal government updated its travel advice to warn Australians not to go near the international airport as the threat of Taliban violence against those trying to enter worsens.
“If you’re in the area of the airport, move to a safe location and await further advice,” the advice from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s Smartraveller website said.
“There’s an ongoing and very high threat of terrorist attack.”
The US embassy in Kabul also advised US citizens and visa holders of unspecified “security threats” near the airport.
France and Denmark have announced a halt to their evacuation flights due to the deteriorating security situation.
Western allies have evacuated tens of thousands of their citizens and Afghans from the country ahead of the August 31 departure deadline.
Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen told the UK’s Sky News there would be “consequences” if foreign troops stayed beyond the deadline, saying it had become an “extended occupation”.
But the Taliban, whose fighters are guarding the perimeter outside the airport, are enemies of the Afghan affiliate of Islamic State, known as Islamic State Khorasan (ISIS-K), after an old name for the region.
“Our guards are also risking their lives at Kabul airport, they face a threat too from the Islamic State group,” a Taliban official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Reuters.
Ahmedullah Rafiqzai, a civil aviation official at the airport, said people continued to crowd around the gates despite the attack warnings.
“People don’t want to move, it’s their determination to leave this country that they are not scared to even die,” he told Reuters.