UK warns of 'imminent' threat against Kabul airport'

Britain warns of 'imminent' threat against Kabul airport

Britain's foreign ministry advised people not to travel to the Kabul Hamid Karzai International Airport

Heappey confirmed that intelligence of a possible suicide bomb attack by Islamic State militants had become "much firmer". Credit: AFP Photo

A terrorist threat against Kabul airport is "very serious" and "imminent", Britain's armed forces minister James Heappey said on Thursday as the UK government warned its citizens to stay away from the area.

"Reporting over the week has become ever more credible. And it is of an imminent and severe threat to life," Heappey told Times Radio.

"This is a very serious threat, very imminent," he said.

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The minister confirmed to Sky News that the attack could come in a matter of hours.

The warning come as the UK plans 11 flights out of the airport in the next 24 hours, the minister said, acknowledging that many people have chosen to keep waiting outside the airport regardless.

"There are thousands of people that have ignored that advice," Heappey said.

"We're doing our best to keep those who have not left safe," he added, while saying the UK does not have enough troops on the ground to go into the city and seek to remove the threat.

Late Wednesday, Britain warned its citizens away from Kabul's airport, where huge crowds have gathered hoping to board evacuation flights after the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan.

"Do not travel to Kabul Hamid Karzai International Airport," the Foreign and Commonwealth Office wrote on its website. "There is an ongoing and high threat of terrorist attack."

"If you are in the area of the airport, move away to a safe location and await further advice," it urged, adding that "if you can leave Afghanistan safely by other means, you should do so immediately".

Washington and its allies have been flying out thousands of Afghans every day on hulking military transport, but it has become an increasingly difficult and desperate task.

Heappey said his advice to British citizens was "to do as the Foreign Office advice instructs and to find a place of safety."

According to the latest data, 11,474 people have been evacuated by the UK since August 13, including 6,946 Afghans.

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Opposition Labour MP Stephen Kinnock slammed the government for failing to plan an organised withdrawal, while praising the work of soldiers and diplomats on the ground.

"It is utterly heartbreaking, and although those brave diplomats and civil servants and soldiers are doing so much, they have been badly let down by their political masters," Kinnock told Sky News.

The MP said the British government "had 18 months to plan for this and have completely failed to make the necessary preparations to have an orderly withdrawal".

Among those still waiting outside the airport is Paul "Pen" Farthing, a former Marine who runs an animal shelter in Kabul, and has chartered a plane to fly out his staff's families and animals, prompting controversy as thousands of desperate Afghans seek to flee the Taliban regime.

He tweeted saying his team and animals are stuck outside the airport and requesting safe passage for his convoy.

Heappey told Sky News that Farthing's request for safe passage for his Afghan staff and animals was another way of asking to be "brought to the front of the queue".

"That doesn't feel the right thing to do," the minister said, while reiterating a statement from Defence Minister Ben Wallace on Wednesday that the UK would seek to facilitate Farthing's chartered plane getting a landing slot.

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