Washington – A US air strike in Afghanistan in the wake of a deadly suicide bombing at Kabul airport killed two high-profile Islamic State “planners and facilitators” and left another wounded, the Pentagon said yesterday.
No civilians were hurt in the drone strike early yesterday, which followed Thursday’s bombing that killed scores of people including 13 US troops, Major General Hank Taylor told a news conference.
The Pentagon declined to say if the people targeted in the US strike were directly involved in the suicide bombing, which was claimed by the Islamic State-Khorasan group, a regional offshoot of the main outfit.
“They were ISIS-K planners and facilitators. That’s enough reason there alone,” spokesman John Kirby said, referring to the group by the US government’s preferred acronym.
“The fact that two of these individuals are no longer walking on the face of the Earth, that’s a good thing,” he added.
The suicide bombing, which targeted throngs of Afghans gathered outside the airport in hopes of fleeing Taliban-ruled Afghanistan, opened a deadly new chapter in the drama unfolding as the frantic US evacuation drive approaches a Tuesday deadline for completion.
US officials have said more attacks on the evacuation effort are “likely.”
The US evacuation from Kabul is ongoing — Taylor said there were around 1,400 people at the airport Saturday who have been “screened and manifested for flights today.”
A State Department official said Saturday there were still 350 Americans in Afghanistan who have told US officials they want to leave. The official said at least 5,400 Americans “and likely more” have been evacuated so far.
Altogether, about 112,000 people have been flown out of Afghanistan since August 14, the day before the Taliban seized power, according to the latest US government data.
The bodies of the 13 US soldiers killed in the airport attack were being flown home Saturday, Kirby said.
The Pentagon has identified the victims. Five of them were only 20 years old — the same length of time that the US military has been in Afghanistan. The oldest was 31 years old.
Kirby said the United States continues to control Kabul airport and security there, a day after the Taliban said they had taken over parts of the facility.
Heavily armed Taliban fighters were seen throughout the grounds and auxiliary buildings of the airport complex by AFP reporters on Saturday, while US marines peered at them from the passenger terminal roof.
Kirby said the Taliban man checkpoints around the airport but do not handle security.
“We’re not shutting down evacuation operations. We’re going until the end,” Kirby said.
“We’re still in charge of the airport and we’re still in charge of security at the airport and what was true a few days ago is still true today.” — AFP