US says drone kills suicide bombers targeting Kabul airport
American officials say the vehicle carried multiple bombers.
A US drone strike on Sunday struck a vehicle carrying “multiple suicide bombers” from Afghanistan’s Daesh affiliate before they could target the ongoing military evacuation at Kabul’s international airport, American officials said.
There were few initial details about the incident, as well as a rocket that struck a neighbourhood just northwest of the airport, killing a child. The Taliban initially described the two strikes as separate incidents, though information on both remained scarce and witnesses heard only one large blast on Sunday in the Afghan capital.
Two American military officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss military operations, called the airstrike successful and said the vehicle carried multiple bombers.
US Navy Capt. Bill Urban, a spokesman for the American military’s Central Command, called the drone strike an action taken in “self-defence”. He said authorities continued “assessing the possibilities of civilian casualties, though we have no indications at this time”.
“We are confident we successfully hit the target,” Urban said. “Significant secondary explosions from the vehicle indicated the presence of a substantial amount of explosive material.”
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid earlier said in a message to journalists that the US strike targeted a suicide bomber as he drove a vehicle loaded with explosives. Mujahid offered few other details.
The strike was the second by America since the airport suicide bombing. On Saturday, a strike in Nangarhar province killed a Daesh member believed to be involved in planning attacks against the United States in Kabul.
The Daesh extremists, with links to the group’s more well-known affiliate in Syria and Iraq, have carried out a series of brutal attacks, including a 2020 assault on a maternity hospital in Kabul in which they killed women and infants.
The attack comes as the United States winds down a historic airlift that saw tens of thousands evacuated from Kabul’s international airport, the scene of much of the chaos that engulfed the Afghan capital since the Taliban took over two weeks ago. After a Daesh affiliate’s suicide attack that killed over 180 people, the Taliban increased its security around the airfield as Britain ended its evacuation flights on Saturday.
US military cargo planes continued their runs into the airport Sunday, ahead of a Tuesday deadline earlier set by President Joe Biden to withdraw all troops from America’s longest war. However, Afghans remaining behind in the country worry about the Taliban reverting to their earlier oppressive rule — something fuelled by the recent shooting death of a folk singer in the country by the insurgents.
The shooting of Fawad Andarabi came in the Andarabi Valley for which he was named, an area of Baghlan province some 100 kilometres north of Kabul. The valley had seen upheaval since the Taliban takeover, with some districts in the area coming under the control of militia fighters opposed to the Taliban rule. The Taliban say they have since retaken those areas, though neighbouring Panjshir in the Hindu Kush mountains remains the only one of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces not under its control.
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