British troops ‘ran towards ISIS explosion’ at Kabul airport that killed more than 180 people: Commanding officer reveals how soldiers treated casualties and helped secure site so US could retrieve their dead and wounded
- British soldiers ‘ran towards explosions’ during Kabul airport suicide bombing that killed more than 180 people, Brigadier James Martin revealed to Sky News
- Troops on the ground described a ‘scene of chaos’ following the deadly blast
- Brig Martin said it was pure ‘serendipity’ there weren’t British forces among dead
British troops ‘ran towards explosions’ during the suicide bomb attack at Kabul airport that killed at least 180 people, a senior Army officer has revealed.
Soldiers on the ground described a ‘scene of chaos’ at Hamid Karzai International Airport as they worked to secure the area alongside US forces and help treat casualties, including a baby, Brigadier James Martin explained.
Brig Martin, who leads the 16 Air Assault Brigade and commanded troops on the land mission, praised his troops and described it as pure ‘serendipity’ that no British forces were among the fatalities.
The senior officer also dismissed the notion that the American forces had kept the airport’s gate open because British forces wanted to evacuate more people.
Brig Martin described the actions of his soldiers as ‘one of the finest things I’ve seen’ during Operation Pitting – the nation’s largest evacuation since World War Two that saw over 15,000 people safely retrieved from the Taliban’s clutches.
‘They ran towards the explosion,’ he explained.
‘They provided immediate medical succour and support to the Afghan civilians that have been wounded.
‘They provided Explosive Ordnance Disposal support to the Americans, and they provided a security perimeter so the Americans could withdraw their wounded, and their killed, with dignity and under a screen of safety.’
British troops ‘ran towards explosions’ during the suicide bomb attack at Kabul airport (pictured) that killed at least 182 people, a senior Army officer has revealed
Brigadier James Martin praised the reaction of his troops and described it as pure ‘serendipity’ that no British forces were among the fatalities
Leaked transcripts handed to Politico suggest Pentagon officials had predicted a ‘mass casualty’ attack at Kabul airport and warned that the Abbey Gate was the ‘highest risk’ in a meeting just 24 hours before 170 people and 13 US Marines were killed.
In a second conference call at 12pm last Thursday, American commanders set out plans to close the gate by that afternoon.
However, the decision was taken to allow Britain, based at the nearby Baron Hotel, to continue evacuating people through it.
Six hours later, an ISIS-K terrorist armed with a suicide vest killed himself and almost 200 others.
Describing the blast to Sky News, Brig Martin said troops ‘immediately’ recognised the explosion as a suicide bomb and darted to the front of Abbey Gate
The terrorist attack happened at about 6pm local time at the Abbey Gate on Thursday, August 26 – where thousands had gathered at the perimeter hoping to board a departing cargo plane.
Initially, the Pentagon said that there had been two suicide attacks, including at the Baron Hotel where the British were processing people.
The following day the US changed its account and said there had been only one, blaming ‘garbled’ intelligence from the scene.
And survivors have claimed that frightened soldiers protecting the airport may have opened fire in the aftermath, inadvertently adding to the death toll, which included two Britons and the child of a UK national.
Describing the blast to Sky News, Brig Martin said troops ‘immediately’ recognised the explosion as a suicide bomb and darted to the front of the gate.
And he also shared the devastating emotional toll that his soldiers have endured after watching Afghans crushed in large crowds during the fortnight long last-ditch operation.
‘We heard the immediate bang of the explosion, I think we all knew immediately, I certainly knew immediately, what it was,’ he said.
‘Two to three seconds later, we were then hit by a wave of CS gas, which was effectively the vaporisation of the gas that the American soldiers were carrying.
‘We then opened the gates and we began to provide that support and our soldiers moved towards the incident in order to secure themselves.
‘But then to start helping with the process of dealing with casualties and supporting our UK, US, brethren.
The terrorist attack happened at about 6pm local time at the Abbey Gate on Thursday, August 26 – where thousands had gathered at the perimeter hoping to board a departing cargo plane
‘There was emotions all the way through the operations.
‘You can’t see a young child, a baby, a woman crushed to death in front of you, and then you having to deal with the aftermath of that and the corpse, or provide medical attention to a baby that’s been struck by a five millimetre ball bearing – you can’t see any of that without being emotional.
‘But our men and women are incredibly resilient, and incredibly professional, and the scenes of emotion were saved till after the event, till after they did their duty.’
Speaking to the Telegraph, Brigadier Martin asked: ‘Did they [my troops] see some harrowing things? Did they see some wretched circumstances?
‘Did they see some of the worst and best of humanity? Absolutely.’
The British Ministry of Defense declined to respond to allegations they were to blame for keeping the gate open, but said in a statement: ‘Throughout Operation Pitting we have worked closely with the US to ensure the safe evacuation of thousands of people.
‘We send our deepest condolences to the families of the US victims of the senseless attacks in Kabul & continue to offer our full support to our closest ally’.