CHICAGO (CBS Chicago/CBS News) — On a day when a suicide bomber killed 12 U.S. service members and dozens of others outside the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, many Afghans living in Chicago are scrambling to find ways to help their families that are still stuck in Afghanistan.
As CBS 2’s Asal Rezaei reported Thursday, it is a fight against time – with President Joe Biden’s Tuesday, Aug. 31 deadline for U.S. troops to withdraw from Afghanistan being around the corner. Afghans who talked with Rezaei said they are desperate to get their families out.READ MORE: 5 Killed, 38 Wounded In Weekend Shootings Across Chicago
On Thursday, one bomb exploded among crowds waiting at Abbey Gate at the airport, and another explosion struck a nearby hotel, according to the Pentagon.
The twin explosions brought more chaos and uncertainty for people with families stuck in Afghanistan.
Masood Quader said his wife’s entire family is there with no way out.
“She immediately called family to try and get in contact with them,” Quader said. “For every ring, kind of holding your breath until they picked up – and then there was kind of a sense of relief.”
In order to help them, Masood took a leave of absence from work and came to the Muslim Women Resource Center, 2828 W. Devon Ave., to get the correct paperwork they will need to get refugee visas through the State Department in Afghanistan.
“They’ve been bunkered down. We’ve been in communication with them,” Quader said. “But also, communication has been disrupted. There have been days where we haven’t been able to reach them.”
With up to 50 Afghan families showing up to the center on Devon Avenue every day – fearing for their families overseas – Masood decided to stay as a volunteer and help as many people as he can.READ MORE: Man Shot, Critically Wounded In Car Downtown
Meanwhile, single mom Madina Olfati is also hoping to bring her family back to Chicago. She arrived from Afghanistan through a special immigrant visa just a few months ago.
Speaking in Farsi, Olfati said she is living in constant fear – scared the Taliban will come and take her little brother and sister. She believes if they refuse, they will be killed.
“Really you have a situation here,” Quader said. “They’re just seeking any way out for what they see as a death sentence.”
Completing each case file to get just one person into the system for a visa request can take up to five hours.
Afghans told Rezaei that issue, paired with the upcoming withdrawal deadline, is causing panic in their community.
In the Kabul attack on Thursday, the Pentagon said a suicide bomber detonated an explosion that tore through a crowd waiting at an entrance to the airport – where thousands of people have gathered every day since the city fell to the Taliban, desperate to board flights out of the country.
The total death toll stood at 90 people, with 150 more wounded, an Afghan official said. Included in that figure were 12 U.S. service members who were killed and 15 others who were injured.
Marine Corps General Kenneth McKenzie, commander of U.S. Central Command, confirmed the U.S. death toll, and said those responsible were “assessed to have been ISIS fighters.” U.S. officials, including the president, have warned of an ongoing threat posed by the ISIS affiliate in Afghanistan, known as ISIS Khorasan, or ISIS-K.MORE NEWS: 2 Dead In Fiery Crash On Stevenson Expressway Near La Grange Road
The attack marked one of the single deadliest days for U.S. forces in Afghanistan in the 20 years since the allied invasion.