Melissa Quinn, Kathryn Watson, Stefan Becket – CBS News
Twelve U.S. service members were killed and 15 others injured in an attack outside the airport in the capital of Afghanistan on Thursday, signalling a deadly turn in U.S. efforts to evacuate Americans and Afghan allies ahead of President Biden’s August 31 deadline to withdraw.
The Pentagon said a suicide bomber detonated an explosion that tore through a crowd waiting at an entrance to the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, where thousands of people have gathered every day since the city fell to the Taliban, desperate to board flights out of the country. Another explosion struck a nearby hotel, the Pentagon said. Dozens of Afghan civilians were also believed to be among the dead and wounded.
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.
The attack marked one of the single deadliest days for U.S. forces in Afghanistan in the 20 years since the allied invasion.
McKenzie said U.S. forces are “prepared to take action” against the assailants. “Twenty-four seven, we are looking for them,” he said. McKenzie added that he expects the attacks to continue, and the threat of ongoing attacks remains high.
A Taliban spokesman condemned the “gruesome incident” and said the group “will take every step to bring the culprits to justice.”
As the U.S. rushes to evacuate U.S. citizens and Afghans who helped American troops during the war, as well as those at risk from the Taliban, President Biden has warned that the risk to American and allied forces on the ground was growing with each day that passes.
On Wednesday evening, the U.S. and Britain warned citizens not to go to Kabul’s airport because of a terror threat outside the facility’s gates. The U.S. Embassy in the capital alerted U.S. citizens to avoid travelling to the airport and said those at three different gates “should leave immediately.”
ISIS claims responsibility for attack outside Kabul airport gate
ISIS claimed credit for the explosion Thursday near the main airport in Kabul that killed a dozen U.S. service members, according to the SITE Intelligence Group.
SITE said a report from ISIS’s Amaq News Agency claimed a suicide bomber from Khorasan Province was able to get close to U.S. forces, as well as Afghans seeking to flee Kabul and detonate an explosive belt.
The U.S. military controls the airport in Kabul and has been facilitating the evacuations of American citizens and at-risk Afghans following the Taliban’s takeover of the country earlier this month.
Marine Corps General Kenneth McKenzie, commander of U.S. Central Command, said during the Pentagon’s briefing that two suicide bombers “assessed to have been ISIS fighters” detonated devices near the Abbey Gate and in the vicinity the Baron Hotel.
Following the attack at the Abbey Gate, ISIS gunmen opened fire on civilians and military forces, McKenzie said.
feature image: Masoud Akbari via Wikimedia