There were few initial details of Sunday’s incident, as well as a rocket that hit a neighborhood near the airport that killed a child according to an Afghan police official. The Taliban described the two attacks as separate incidents, but residents of the Afghan capital only heard one large explosion.
The airstrike came as the United States ends a historic airlift due to end by Tuesday that saw tens of thousands evacuated from Hamid Karzai International Airport (HKIA), on scene of much of the chaos that has engulfed the Afghan capital since the Taliban takeover. two weeks ago.
Tensions have soared since a suicide bombing at Kabul airport on Thursday that killed at least 175 people, including 13 US servicemen. The attack was claimed by the Islamic State of Khorasan Province, ISKP (ISIS-K), an ISIL affiliate.
US Navy Captain Bill Urban, spokesperson for US Army Central Command, called the latest action drone attack “self-defense.” He said the authorities were continuing “to assess the possibilities of civilian casualties, although we have no indication at this time.”
“We are confident that we have succeeded in hitting the target,” said Urban. “Large secondary explosions from the vehicle indicated the presence of a substantial amount of explosive material. “
The Taliban also said a US missile attack targeted suicide bombers.
“The vehicle and those inside were killed in the drone attack,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said.
Two US military officials, who spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity, called the airstrike a success and said the vehicle was carrying several bombers.
This is the second attack by US forces since Thursday’s suicide bombing at Kabul airport.
The Pentagon said on Saturday that retaliatory drone attacks killed two “high-level” ISKP targets in eastern Afghanistan, but Biden warned of further attacks by the group.
“The situation on the ground continues to be extremely dangerous and the threat of terrorist attacks on the airport remains high,” Biden said on Saturday.
“Our commanders have informed me that an attack is very likely within the next 24 to 36 hours. “
The US Embassy in Kabul then issued a warning of credible threats in specific areas of the airport, including the access gates.
The United States and its allies have taken an estimated 114,400 people – foreign nationals and vulnerable Afghans – out of the country in the past two weeks, but tens of thousands of people who wish to leave will be left behind.
The US State Department released a statement signed by around 100 countries, as well as NATO and the European Union, claiming to have received “assurances” from the Taliban that people with travel documents could still leave the country. country freely.
The Taliban said they would allow normal travel after the US withdrawal ended on Tuesday and take control of the airport.
Child killed in Kabul explosion (police)
At the same time, an Afghan police chief said on Sunday that a rocket struck a neighborhood northwest of HKIA, killing a child.
Rashid, a named Kabul police chief, told AP that the rocket struck the Khuwja Bughra neighborhood on Sunday afternoon.
No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack.
Charles Stratford of Al Jazeera, reporting from Kabul, said residents of the neighborhood also reported that a rocket hit a house.
“It comes at a time of growing tension here, the closer we get to that evacuation deadline,” he said.
Stratford said many questions remained unanswered regarding the blasts reported on Sunday.
“What seems clear though, is that the Taliban are grappling with what many analysts say is a growing ISIS threat in this country, and appear to depend heavily on the Americans – at least US air power – for keep this threat at bay. , ” he said.
“And of course that has huge implications for when the last NATO forces, the Americans, will leave in what we think will be in the next 48 hours. “