No Credible Threat to NYC After Kabul Blasts; Gov Directs State Resources to Help Refugees

Gov. Kathy Hochul, who was in the city to introduce her No. 2, Brian Benjamin, on Thursday, said she would direct state resources to help Afghan refugees in New York.

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What to Know

  • At least two explosions were confirmed, along with U.S. and civilian casualties, near Afghanistan's Kabul airport as thousands desperately try to flee before America's self-imposed Aug. 31 evacuation deadline
  • Mayor Bill de Blasio said when asked at his daily COVID briefing there was no credible threat to NYC in connection with the Kabul explosions, which come just about two weeks before the 20th anniversary of 9/11
  • Gov. Kathy Hochul, who was in the city to introduce her No. 2, Brian Benjamin, on Thursday, said she would direct state resources to help Afghan refugees in New York

Mayor Bill de Blasio says there is no credible threat to New York City in connection with Thursday's explosions near Afghanistan's Kabul airport, which Pentagon officials confirm was part of a "complex attack" that claimed the lives of at least 13 U.S. Marines and one Navy medic, along with others.

That figure represents the most U.S. service members killed in a single incident since Aug. 6, 2011, when 30 American service members, including 22 Navy SEALs, were killed along with seven Afghan special forces members and an Afghan civilian interpreter when their transport helicopter was shot down. A military dog also died.

A total of 22 people are confirmed dead in the attack, which involved two suicide bombers and gunmen, officials said. Dozens more, including at least another dozen U.S. service members, were said to be among the wounded. The count may grow.

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul directed all state buildings fly flags at half staff on Friday in memory of the service members and civilians who were killed in the attack. In an interview late Thursday, Hochul repeated what the mayor said earlier in the day about no known threats to New York, but given the proximity to the 20th anniversary of 9/11, said that security would be increased at commemorations around that time.

Thursday's true casualty count at this point, including the number of those injured, is still being calculated, the Pentagon said at a 3 p.m. briefing. The effort to help Americans who want to get out of the war-torn country is ongoing, they added.

The attack occurred in an area of the airport that requires close physical screening to ensure no explosives are broad on evacuation aircraft, according to the Pentagon, which noted, "Americans have to be in danger to do these searches."

An evaluation of the process is underway as authorities work to tabulate the ultimate casualty toll.

At least 113 Afghans were killed and 180 injured in Thursday's attacks outside Kabul airport, according to an unnamed Afghan Health Ministry source. 13 U.S. servicemen were also killed.

News of the attack broke as de Blasio was taking questions following his daily COVID briefing, throwing evacuation efforts into more turmoil days before President Joe Biden's deadline for all U.S. forces to withdraw from the country.

Biden later vowed to complete the evacuation of American citizens and others from Afghanistan despite the day's deadly suicide bomb attack. He promised to avenge the deaths of the 13 U.S. service members killed in the attack, declaring to the extremists responsible: “We will hunt you down and make you pay.”

The NYPD typically steps up security at high-density or other relevant locations in the city strictly out of an abundance of caution in such cases.

There were at least two confirmed explosions -- one at Abbey Gate and one at or near a hotel a short distance away, the Pentagon confirmed.

Biden said the Islamic State group's Afghanistan affiliate was to blame for the attacks.

Several countries urged people to avoid the airport earlier in the day, with one saying there was a threat of a suicide bombing. But just days — or even hours for some nations — before the evacuation effort ends, few appeared to heed the call.

The airport has been the scene this week of some of the most searing images of the chaotic end of America's longest war and the Taliban's takeover, as flight after flight took off carrying those who fear a return to the militants' brutal rule.

The first Afghan refugees to be airlifted from the war zone arrived in New Jersey overnight and officials say more are expected soon, though it's unclear how long they'll stay.

Already, some countries have ended evacuations and begun to withdraw soldiers and diplomats, signaling the beginning of the end of one of history's largest airlifts. The Taliban have pledged not to attack Western forces during the evacuation, but insist the foreign troops must be out by America's self-imposed deadline of Aug. 31.

New York City is set to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks in a little more than two weeks. Gov. Kathy Hochul, who was in the city to introduce her No. 2, Brian Benjamin, on Thursday, said she would direct state resources to help Afghan refugees in New York.

She also spoke about spending time in Afghanistan when she was a member of the House Foreign Services Committee.

Photojournalist Lynsey Addario was awarded a Pulitzer for her work on the New York Times' Afghanistan coverage in 2009. Now with the Taliban taking over, she's calling in some favors to help her former subjects out of the country - but it's getting difficult, as the path to the Kabul airport gets more dangerous.

New Jersey, which lost more than 700 residents in the 9/11 terror attacks, is also preparing to mark the solemn anniversary.

U.S. Democratic Senator Bob Menendez, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, in a statement from Greece Thursday condemned "in the strongest and most forceful of terms today's attacks targeting U.S. citizens, personnel and vulnerable Afghans trying to flee Afghanistan."

"I understand that American personnel were among the casualties and my prayers are with the victims of this cowardly attack and their families," Menendez's statement said. "As we wait for more details to come in, one thing is clear: We can’t trust the Taliban with Americans’ security."

"This is a full-fledged humanitarian crisis, and the U.S. government personnel, already working under extreme circumstances, must secure the airport and complete the massive evacuation of Americans citizens and vulnerable Afghans desperately trying to leave the country," the senator added.

On Tuesday, President Joe Biden stressed that the leaders of the Group of 7 would stand together to prevent Afghanistan from being used as a base for terrorism.

Sen. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York echoed those sentiments in a mid-afternoon statement on Thursday, with much still unknown on casualties.

"My thoughts are with the families and friends of the brave U.S. service members and Afghans who lost their lives and those injured in this cowardly attack. I strongly condemn this act of terrorism and it must be clear to the world that the terrorists who perpetrated this will be sought and brought to justice," the Democrat said.

“I will continue to monitor the situation in Kabul and our evacuation efforts. Our nation is proud of and grateful for all the service members, diplomats, and other personnel who are carrying out this extremely difficult mission,” he added.

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