The US military says a drone strike on a vehicle suspected of being used for a planned attack in Afghanistan may have caused “additional casualties” as well as killed the two Islamic State militants it targeted. An Afghan official has said three children were killed in the strike near Kabul’s airport. Witnesses to the blast say several citizens were killed or wounded.
In a statement Sunday night, a spokesman for US Central Command, Navy Capt. Bill Urban, said US officials were aware of the reports of civilian casualties and were still investigating. Urban said the strike disrupted an imminent threat on the Kabul airport but added: “We would be deeply saddened by any potential loss of innocent life.”
Separately, a US official said the drone fired a Hellfire missile at a vehicle in a compound between two buildings when individuals were seen loading explosives into the trunk.
The official said there was an initial explosion caused by the missile, followed by a much larger fireball, believed to be the result of the substantial amount of explosives inside the vehicle.
In his statement, Urban said those powerful subsequent explosions may have caused civilian casualties.
The US believes that two Islamic State group individuals who were targeted were killed.
The officials said it appears that the second explosion did significant damage to one of the buildings next to the vehicle. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss information about a military operation.
Biden’s statement on Kabul attack
US President Joe Biden had vowed to keep up the airstrikes, saying Saturday that another attack was “highly likely.” The State Department called the threat “specific” and “credible.”
The Sunni extremists of IS, with links to the group’s more well-known affiliate in Syria and Iraq, have carried out a series of attacks, mainly targeting Afghanistan’s Shiite Muslim minority, including a 2020 assault on a maternity hospital in Kabul that killed women and newborns.
The Taliban have fought against the IS affiliate in the past and have pledged to not allow Afghanistan to become a base for terror attacks. The US-led invasion in 2001 came in response to the 9/11 attacks, which al-Qaida planned and executed while being sheltered by the Taliban.
The Taliban increased security around the airport after Thursday’s attack, clearing away the large crowds that had gathered outside the gates hoping to join the airlift.
Britain ended its evacuation flights Saturday, and most U.S. allies concluded theirs earlier in the week. But U.S. military cargo planes continued their runs into the airport Sunday, ahead of a Tuesday deadline set by President Joe Biden to withdraw all American troops.