Philadelphia International Airport to receive evacuees from Afghanistan

Civilians prepare to board a plane at Hamid Karzai International Airport

Civilians prepare to board a plane during an evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport, Kabul, Afghanistan, Aug. 18. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Victor Mancilla)

This story originally appeared on 6ABC.

The Philadelphia International Airport will be the second airport in the nation to welcome evacuees from Afghanistan, officials confirmed to Action News on Thursday.

“Philadelphia stands in solidarity with Afghan refugees and we look forward to providing them a safe haven in our welcoming city,” said Mayor Jim Kenney in a statement.

It’s still unclear when and exactly how many Afghan refugees will be arriving.

Since the Taliban seized the Afghan capital on Aug. 14, about 82,000 people have been airlifted from Afghanistan.

As of Wednesday morning, more than 8,600 evacuees have arrived in the U.S. through Washington Dulles International Airport in Virginia, according to figures provided by Grant Neely, a communications advisor for Governor Ralph Northam.

Refugees have already started resettling in New Jersey and the Philadelphia area.

An Afghan family of eight came to Philadelphia Tuesday afternoon: two parents and six small children. They’re one of the hundreds of families who will make it to the region.

“Usually, the process we find out two weeks before. In recent cases, we’ve had 24 to 48 hours notice,” said Gretchen Shanfeld, the senior director at Nationalities Service Center in Philadelphia. The organization is one of the many helping evacuees get settled to life on American soil.

“We stand ready to provide medical assistance, housing, and connection to our diverse community of immigrant service providers who can assist with an array of social services,” said a spokeswoman for the City of Philadelphia.

The news comes as 13 US service members and 60 Afghans were killed in an attack at the Kabul airport.

Two suicide bombers and gunmen attacked crowds of Afghans flocking to Kabul’s airport Thursday, transforming a scene of desperation into one of horror in the waning days of an airlift for those fleeing the Taliban takeover.

The U.S. general overseeing the evacuation said the attacks would not stop the United States from evacuating Americans and others, and flights out were continuing. Gen. Frank McKenzie, head of U.S. Central Command, said there was a large amount of security at the airport, and alternate routes were being used to get evacuees in. About 5,000 people were awaiting flights on the airfield, McKenzie said.

The blasts came hours after Western officials warned of a major attack, urging people to leave the airport. But that advice went largely unheeded by Afghans desperate to escape the country in the last few days of an American-led evacuation before the U.S. officially ends its 20-year presence on Aug. 31.

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the killings on its Amaq news channel. The IS affiliate in Afghanistan is far more radical than the Taliban, who recently took control of the country in a lightning blitz. The Taliban were not believed to have been involved in the attacks and condemned the blasts.

In an emotional speech from the White House, U.S. President Joe Biden said the latest bloodshed would not drive the U.S. out of Afghanistan earlier than scheduled, and that he had instructed the U.S. military to develop plans to strike IS.

“We will not forgive. We will not forget. We will hunt you down and make you pay,” Biden said.

U.S. officials initially said 12 Marines and one Navy medic were among those who died. Another service member died hours later. Eighteen service members were wounded and officials warned the toll could grow. More than 140 Afghans were wounded, an Afghan official said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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