FirstFT: Dozens killed in Kabul bombings


World updates

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At least 12 members of the US military died after two bombs exploded near Kabul airport, killing and wounding an unknown number of civilians as western countries scrambled to complete their last evacuation flights from Afghanistan.

General Kenneth McKenzie, head of the Pentagon’s central command, said that, in addition to the 12 deaths, at least 15 troops were injured following the attacks by two suicide bombers believed to be affiliated to Isis. McKenzie added that he expected Isis to strike again.

“We believe it is their desire to continue those attacks . . . and we’re doing everything we can to be prepared,” he said. “If we can find who’s associated with this, we will go after them.”

The casualties on Thursday resulted from a suicide bombing near the airport’s Abbey Gate, followed by a gunman opening fire on civilians and troops. Another blast occurred at or around the nearby Baron hotel, where some evacuees had been congregating.

According to Rita Katz, director of the Site Intelligence Group, which monitors communications from extreme Islamists, Isis claimed responsibility for the attacks. US President Joe Bide addressed the nation following the attacks. Follow the latest coverage of Afghanistan on (FT, Bloomberg)

Map showing site of explosions at Hamid Kazai International Airport

More on Afghanistan:

  • Looking ahead: Afghanistan’s Shia minority, historic victims of persecution, are fearful despite the militants’ promises of tolerance.

  • Opinion: Saad Mohseni, chair and chief executive of Moby Group, calls for a UN intervention in Afghanistan.

  • Video: The fall of Afghanistan: what next? US managing editor Peter Spiegel discusses with former CIA director-general David Petraeus, former governor of the Afghan central bank Ajmal Ahmady and the FT’s Katrina Manson and Stephanie Findlay.

Thanks as always, for reading FirstFT Asia. Have a great weekend. — Emily

Five more stories in the news

1. US media deals in the spotlight Forbes has agreed to go public via a merger with a special purpose acquisition company that values the US business news outlet at $630m, making it the latest in a string of eye-catching deals in the media industry.

2. China tech rally snaps Kuaishou shares fell more than 12 per cent on Thursday after the short-video platform and TikTok rival reported weaker than expected second-quarter earnings, dragging other China tech shares lower and ending three days of gains for the sector.

3. South Korea raises interest rates The Bank of Korea has raised its benchmark interest rate from 0.5 per cent to 0.75 per cent, becoming the first central bank of a big Asian economy to raise its lending rates. Fears about rocketing property prices and record household debt informed the decision to increase lending rates for the first time since September 2018.

4. Executive who helped shape post-crisis BofA to retire Tom Montag, the Wall Street executive who helped reshape Bank of America as it emerged from the 2008-09 financial crisis, is retiring at the end of the year. Montag came to BofA from Merrill Lynch, the Wall Street broker acquired by the bank in 2008 as it faced huge losses from securities backed by subprime mortgages.

5. US investors cut their leverage Investors in the US have started to dial back their use of leverage for the first time since financial markets were rattled by the coronavirus crisis last year. Investors borrowed $844bn against their portfolios in July, down from a record $882bn a month earlier and the lowest level since March, according to new data.

Line chart of Margin debt held in brokerage accounts ($bn) showing Investors dialled back their use of leverage in July

Coronavirus digest

  • Thailand was moved to England’s red travel list as seven other countries and regions go green.

  • Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic party is to hold a leadership election next month as prime minister Yoshihide Suga’s poll ratings tumble. Former foreign minister Fumio Kishida will challenge Suga in the vote.

  • British Airways is planning to replace its short-haul operation at Gatwick airport with a new low-cost business, as demand suffers in the pandemic.

  • A new photo of Argentina’s president Alberto Fernández flouting lockdown rules has put the government in Buenos Aires on the defensive just a month before midterm primaries.

The day ahead

Japan-Taiwan security talks The two nations will hold their first bilateral security talks today as they seek to strengthen ties to counter an increasingly belligerent China.

Jackson Hole symposium The Kansas City Fed’s abrupt decision last week to move the annual gathering of central bankers to a virtual format for the second time in its more than four-decade history underscored the pandemic risks still confronting economic recovery. All eyes will be on Federal Reserve chair Jay Powell during his address for clues about when the US central bank might start winding down pandemic support.

  • Opinion: Powell’s Jackson Hole speech is an opportunity to give direction amid mounting uncertainty, writes Martin Sandbu in his Free Lunch newsletter. Sign up here.

What else we’re reading

Covid and Biden assuage Middle East tensions Secret talks between longtime foes. Letters exchanged between longtime adversaries. Once-critical television networks moderating language on opposing regimes. A mood of de-escalation is taking hold in a region fraught with hostilities. But it could easily be derailed.

© FT montage; Reuters/Getty
© FT montage; Reuters/Getty

South Sudan’s ‘wasted’ decade July marked 10 years of independence for the world’s youngest country. But clashes have continued between splinter groups, government factions and rebels, leading to policy paralysis and vanishing hopes for a peaceful approach to the first general election scheduled to take place in 2023.

Falling in love with the English countryside The FT’s Derek Brower has lived in and left behind many places, from Winnipeg on the Canadian prairie to London’s Herne Hill to a dvor on the Moika river in St Petersburg. But he writes that he never felt sadder leaving a place than when he pulled out of Buxton three weeks ago, set for another transatlantic move.

How the pandemic is rewiring our minds The comfort-seeking behaviours of pandemic life may be here to stay. But is that a bad thing? Author Imogen West-Knights investigates how the coronavirus crisis has rewired our brains.


As her eponymous label turns 20, Stella McCartney opens up to FT’s Lauren Indvik about her new role at LVMH — and why fashion needs greater government regulation.

‘I’m penalised for working the way I do — it hits my margins, my methods, my timelines’ © Gabby Laurent
‘I’m penalised for working the way I do — it hits my margins, my methods, my timelines’ © Gabby Laurent

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