U.S. Kills Two ISIS Members in Strike After Kabul Bombing
(Bloomberg) -- U.S. forces killed two high-profile Islamic State members and wounded another in a strike against the terrorist group blamed for the bombing that left at least 88 people dead near Kabul’s airport.
The Pentagon raised the toll inflicted on ISIS-K in Friday’s reprisal after earlier reporting that one member of the group was killed. The targets were “ISIS-K planners and facilitators,” Defense Department spokesman John Kirby said.
“They have lost some capability to plan and conduct missions,” Kirby told reporters on Saturday, though “the threat stream is still active” and the strike doesn’t “get us in the clear.”
The U.S. Central Command initially said one person, described as an ISIS-K planner, was killed in a counterterrorism operation in Afghanistan’s Nangahar Province, east of Kabul.
That person was suspected of being involved in plotting future attacks, but had no direct link to Thursday’s assault in Kabul, according to a U.S. official.
The official, who was granted anonymity to discuss the operation, said the target was killed by a Reaper drone while traveling in a vehicle.
Kirby declined to name the targets or elaborate on their roles. There were no known civilian casualties, U.S. Major General William Taylor said.
Thirteen U.S. service members and at least 75 Afghan citizens died in what the Pentagon now says was a single suicide bombing rather than the two previously reported.
President Joe Biden vowed to complete the U.S. evacuation mission in Afghanistan and pledged to pursue the attackers, saying Thursday evening that “we will not forgive, we will not forget, we will hunt you down and make you pay.”
Asked by reporters on Friday whether the president would order a mission to kill those responsible for the bombing, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters: “He does not want them to live on the Earth any more.”
More than 117,000 people have been evacuated from Kabul amid the U.S. withdrawal that’s scheduled to end on Aug. 31, including about 5,400 U.S. citizens, Taylor told reporters.
The U.S. is continuing to process and airlift vulnerable Afghans and applicants for special immigrant visas at the Kabul airport, Kirby said. The Taliban -- who now control Afghanistan, including Kabul -- haven’t assumed any security role at the airport, he said.
The latest strike marks at least the third time the Reaper, built by privately-held General Atomics, has been used in a high-profile attack. A Reaper firing laser-guided Hellfire missiles was used in a nighttime November 2015 attack in Syria that killed Islamic State terrorist Mohammed Emwazi, known as Jihadi John.
More recently, a Reaper fired two Hellfires during a night attack outside Baghdad International Airport in January 2020 that killed Iranian general Qassem Soleimani just after he arrived in Iraq.
The Reaper, a $64 million long-endurance aircraft with a 20-meter (66-foot) wingspan, had Soleimani in its sights for about 10 minutes before firing on two cars carrying the Iranian commander and other senior leaders and aides, including the head of an Iraqi-based militia group that had been in conflict with U.S. forces.
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