Twelve U.S. troops were killed Thursday morning in a suicide bombing followed by gunfire outside the Kabul airport, an attack reportedly claimed by the Islamic State (also known as ISIS), which also killed at least 60 Afghans, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack, according to AFP.
The military believes that a single suicide bomber detonated at the airport’s Abbey gate, Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, the head of U.S. Central Command, told reporters at a press conference Thursday afternoon.
Some 15 U.S. troops were injured in the attack, he said, while the U.S. is still counting how many Afghans were killed or injured.
A second bomb exploded near the Baron Hotel outside the airport, McKenzie said, but they do not know yet whether anyone was killed or injured.
Islamic State-Khorasan, the local branch of the radical militant group, has said it is behind multiple bombings and assassinations and has been suspected of others, including the bombing of a girls’ school in May.
The U.S. will continue to evacuate Americans and Afghans, he said, echoing a statement by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin released before the news conference, who said, “We will not be dissuaded from the task at hand.”
“We thought this would happen sooner or later,” McKenzie said, “and we expect [these] attacks to continue.”
What To Watch For
To prevent attacks, the U.S. will coordinate with the Taliban, which is guarding the perimeter of the airfield, to close roads that might be used for potential suicide car bombings. At the press conference, before the Islamic State claimed responsibility for the bombing, McKenzie said the U.S. will find who carried out the attack and “take action against them.”
Multiple countries warned of such an attack: A senior U.K. defense official told Sky News before the bombing that that there was danger of an “imminent, lethal attack” at the airport within hours, and the U.S. embassy in Kabul issued an alert Wednesday night, the AP reported, for Americans at several airport gates to “leave immediately” because of security threats. President Joe Biden has mentioned the risk of an attack several times in the last week and cited it in defense of not postponing an August 31 deadline to withdraw troops. “Every day we’re on the ground,” he said Tuesday, “is another day we know that ISIS-K is seeking to target the airport.” Since the Taliban took control of the country, thousands of people have gathered outside the airport, creating a huge target for an attack. The crowding itself has been dangerous: At least seven people have died of heart attacks, suffocation or being crushed by the crowd, including a 2-year-old who was trampled to death, according to the Associated Press and the New York Times.
France will airlift “several hundred” more Afghans, President Emmanuel Macron said Thursday, according to AFP, and its ambassador will leave Afghanistan.