Hero British troops who were helping 15,000 people evacuate from stricken Kabul ran towards the blast that killed 170 locals and 13 US soldiers.
The bravery of the Paras emerged as their commander Brigadier James Martin spoke for the first time about the aftermath of the massive explosion.
And he has revealed is was a matter of “serendipity” that none of the young men and women under his command were killed in the airport suicide attack .
Paratroopers on duty just yards from last week’s bomb ran towards the dead and wounded, saving many women and children.
Knowing a blast was highly likely the troops, as young as 18, bravely carried on helping evacuees get through to emergency flights.
Yesterday, Brigadier Martin, commander of 16 Air Assault Brigade, said: “We knew exactly the moment we heard the blast – we knew what it was. There is a degree to this which is serendipity that none of our people got hurt, but I mean we’re talking by feet.
“I imagine for some of our people that is quite difficult to deal with.
“We heard the bang. About three seconds later we felt the sting and the very distinctive smell of CS gas which hit us about three seconds later because the blast had vaporised some of the US stocks of CS gas.
“Very quickly the gates were open – we were bringing in injured women and children.
“Our soldiers were running towards the site of the explosion to do three things: provide medical first aid to those coming in, to provide explosive ordinance disposal support to our American brethren and to provide a security screen so they could safely evacuate their wounded to the hospital.”
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And he revealed that his troops ran towards the sound of gunfire which broke out immediately after the blast, adding: “Of course I was exceptionally proud of how they undertook their duties that day.”
Many young soldiers involved in the evacuation operation will receive different forms of counselling in the coming months.
Asked about how they are coping, he replied: “They showed remarkable levels of robustness, all the way through.
“However, did they see harrowing things? Did they see some wretched circumstances?
“Did they see the worst and best of humanity? Absolutely.
“How they are faring now – I think they’re fine, but that doesn’t mean they don’t need help with processing this stuff.”
Yesterday in Afghanistan there were reports rebel forces had inflicted major casualties on the Taliban who had attacked the Panjshir valley.
The Taliban were apparently repelled and many were killed as reinforcements are being called up to the battle 100 miles north of Kabul.
The Northern Alliance rebels are being commanded by UK-educated Afghan Ahmad Massoud.