U.N. Security Council condemns Kabul attack as "especially abhorrent"

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FILE PHOTO: Tourists pass United Nations Headquarters in New York

By Michelle Nichols

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The United Nations Security Council on Friday condemned a deadly attack at Kabul's airport in Afghanistan as "especially abhorrent" for targeting civilians trying to flee the country after the Taliban came to power and people helping with the evacuation.

The 15-member council agreed on the statement after a reference to the Taliban - stressing that the Islamist group should not support "terrorists operating on the territory of any country" - was removed at the request of China, diplomats said.

Two weeks ago, the Taliban seized power in Afghanistan, 20 years after they were ousted by a U.S.-led invasion for refusing to hand over al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. The Taliban have pledged to prevent al Qaeda from plotting international attacks.

The Kabul airport attack on Thursday, which killed 13 U.S. troops and at least 79 Afghans, was claimed by Islamic State militants. The Islamic State's Afghan affiliate, ISIS-Khorosan, has emerged as enemies of both the West and of the Taliban.

Tens of thousands of people have been fleeing Afghanistan since the Taliban came to power as foreign forces withdraw. The U.N. Security Council "called on all relevant parties to respect and facilitate the safe evacuation of civilians."

"Deliberately targeting civilians and personnel assisting in the evacuation of civilians is especially abhorrent and must be condemned," said the council, underlining the need to hold the perpetrators, organizers, financiers and sponsors accountable.

The council also "reiterated the importance of combating terrorism in Afghanistan to ensure the territory of Afghanistan should not be used to threaten or attack any country, and that no Afghan group or individual should support terrorists operating on the territory of any country."

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is convening a meeting on Monday on Afghanistan with the U.N. envoys for Britain, France, the United States, China and Russia - the council's permanent, veto-wielding members - diplomats said.

However, when asked about what the meeting might achieve, Guterres appeared to dampen expectations, telling reporters on Thursday: "There are normal meetings that take place in the context of the work of the U.N."

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Jonathan Oatis)

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