A dozen US military personnel were killed when two Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) suicide bombers mounted attacks on Kabul airport on Thursday, head of the US Central Command General Kenneth McKenzie has confirmed.
A further 15 US troops were injured. A gunfight erupted after the blasts, McKenzie said, adding that the incidents would not deter the US from continuing its evacuation mission. That operation is set to end with the August 31 deadline for full US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan.
While IS is expected to attempt further assaults, the current US focus, the general continued, was to make sure another attack does not happen.
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin later issued a statement expressing his “deepest condolences to the loved ones and teammates of all those killed” in the attack. “Terrorists took their lives at the very moment these troops were trying to save the lives of others... But we will not be dissuaded from the task at hand,” he added.
On behalf of the men and women of the @deptofdefense, I express my deepest condolences to the loved ones and teammates of all those killed and wounded in Kabul today. Full statement below: pic.twitter.com/GqwuJBKAAF— Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III (@SecDef) August 26, 2021
The casualties resulted from a “complex attack” that also killed a number of Afghan civilians, according to the Pentagon. The explosions – believed to have resulted from one suicide bombing at the Abbey Gate and one vehicle bomb near the Baron Hotel – left a total of 13 people dead, a Taliban spokesperson has confirmed. Local health officials put the toll closer to 60 dead and 140 injured.
Many US allies had either already ended their evacuation efforts before Thursday’s explosions, citing advance intelligence about a terrorist attack, or have announced Thursday as the last chance to exit. Denmark and Canada are no longer flying evacuation missions; Poland and the Netherlands have stopped flying since the attack, while Italy stopped Thursday night, and France announced a Friday deadline. The UK and US, however, are continuing their flights as thousands attempt to pile on the rapidly dwindling number of available planes.
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