UK enters final ‘hours’ of Afghanistan evacuation

The UK defence secretary said: 'The sad fact is not every single one will get out.'

UK enters final ‘hours’ of Afghanistan evacuation MOD

The UK’s evacuation mission in Afghanistan has entered its final “hours” as the processing of those who wish to flee closes.

Defence secretary Ben Wallace said that the locations where two explosions took place on Thursday, the Baron Hotel and the gates at Abbey Gate, had been closed at 4.30am.

He said the processing centre had been shut and beyond “a few people in the crowds” the overall evacuation process had been closed.

Wallace said: “It is with deep regret that not everyone has been able to be evacuated during this process.”

The announcement comes hours after the Prime Minister vowed to continue the evacuation effort in Afghanistan following a “barbaric” terrorist attack at Kabul airport which left multiple people dead including US troops in at least two explosions.

The attacks came after armed forces minister James Heappey warned there is “very credible reporting” of an “imminent” and “severe” threat to Kabul airport.

UK nationals had been told not to travel to Hamid Karzai International Airport amid the “high threat” of a terrorist attack, as the evacuation deadline of August 31 when military personnel must leave the country approached.

The UK Border Force, Armed Forces, the Ministry of Defence, the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, and Home Office have evacuated over 13,000 people in the 14 days during Operation Pitting – the UK’s Afghanistan evacuation mission.

The government said the ability to process further cases is now “extremely reduced” and additional numbers will be limited.

No further people will be called forward to Kabul airport for evacuation.

A statement read: “Evacuating all those civilians we have already processed will free up the capacity needed on UK military aircraft to bring out our remaining diplomats and military personnel.

“The decision to close the evacuating handling centre was made by the chief of joint operations and authorised by the defence secretary. It reflects the latest understanding of the situation on the ground.”

Wallace said: “Our top priority as we move through this process will be the protection of all those involved who are operating in a heightened threat environment.

“We will continue to honour our debt to all those who have not yet been able to leave Afghanistan. We will do all that we can to ensure they reach safety.”

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