US drone strike in Kabul hits IS suicide bombers heading to airport

WASHINGTON — US officials said an American drone strike has hit a vehicle carrying multiple Islamic State suicide bombers heading for Kabul airport. A military official said the strike on Sunday caused “significant secondary explosions,” indicating the presence of a substantial amount of explosive material in the vehicle.

Two senior officials said the US believes it was a successful strike and that the intended target was hit. This is the second airstrike the US has conducted against the group, which claimed responsibility for the suicide bombing Thursday at the Kabul airport gate that killed 13 US service members and scores of Afghans struggling to get out of the country and escape the new Taliban rule.

The officials said Sunday that initial reports indicate there were no civilian casualties caused by the airstrike, but one official said they are assessing reports of any other collateral damage.

There have been reports of an explosion at a house near the airport, but it wasn’t clear the two explosions were connected. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss military operations.

In that second incident, a rocket hit a neighborhood just northwest of the airport, killing a child. The rocket attack struck Kabul’s Khuwja Bughra neighborhood, said Kabul police chief Rashid, who goes by one name. Video obtained by The Associated Press in the aftermath of the attack showed smoke rising from a building at the site around a kilometer (half a mile) from the airport.

The two strikes initially appeared to be separate incidents, though information on both remained scarce.

No group immediately claimed the attack; however, militants have fired rockets in the past.

The attack comes as the United States began to wind down a 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.

Taliban fighters patrol along a street in Kabul on August 29, 2021, as suicide bomb threats hung over the final phase of the US military’s airlift operation from Kabul, with President Joe Biden warning another attack was highly likely before the evacuations end. (Aamir QURESHI / AFP)

After an Islamic State affiliate’s suicide attack that killed over 180 people Thursday, the Taliban increased its security around the airfield as Britain ended its evacuation flights Saturday.

US military cargo planes continued their runs into the airport Sunday, ahead of a Tuesday deadline earlier set by US 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 — fueled by the recent shooting death of a folk singer by the insurgents.

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