Pentagon says drone strike killed two ‘high profile’ ISIS targets in Afghanistan

Victims of a suicide attack at Kabul’s airport arriving at a hospital on Aug 26, 2021.
Victims of a suicide attack at Kabul’s airport arriving at a hospital on Aug 26, 2021.PHOTO: NYTIMES

WASHINGTON (AFP, REUTERS) - A US air strike in Afghanistan killed two high-profile Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) targets and left another wounded, the Pentagon said Saturday (Aug 28). 

No civilians were hurt in the attack early Saturday, which followed the suicide bombing Thursday that killed scores of people including 13 US troops at Kabul airport, Major General Hank Taylor told a news conference. 

The Pentagon declined to say if the people targeted in the US strike were directly involved in the suicide bombing. 

"They were ISIS-K planners and facilitators. That’s enough reason there alone," said spokesman John Kirby. 

"The fact that two of these individuals are no longer walking on the face of the Earth, that’s a good thing," Mr Kirby added. 

He also said US troops have begun their withdrawal from Kabul airport. 

Earlier on Friday, the US military said it had carried out a drone strike against a "planner" of the Islamic State-Khorasan, or ISIS-K, the ISIS affiliate that claimed credit for the deadly suicide bombing at Kabul airport.

US Army Major General William Taylor said two ISIS-K planners were killed and another wounded in Friday’s drone strike in Nangarhar province, eastern Afghanistan.

The strike, launched from outside Afghanistan, came as the airlift of evacuees from Kabul airport continued under much-heightened security after Thursday's attack.

At least 78 people were killed, including 13 US troops, when a suicide attacker exploded a bomb in the dense crowd in front of the airport's Abbey Gate. Some media outlets reported that fatalities numbered close to 200.

US officials said gunmen opened fire after the explosion, adding to the carnage. The attack was carried out by the violent Afghan arm of the ISIS terror group.

Following the attack, United States President Joe Biden vowed retaliation.

"To those who carried out this attack as well as anyone who wishes America harm, know this: We will not forgive. We will not forget. We will hunt you down and make you pay," Mr Biden said on Thursday.

On Friday afternoon, Mr Kirby said the military believed the group planned to strike the airlift again.

"We still believe there are credible threats... specific, credible threats," he said.

The US Embassy in Kabul said in a security alert: "US citizens who are at the Abbey gate, East gate, North gate or the New Ministry of Interior gate now should leave immediately."

It added: "Because of security threats at Kabul airport, we continue to advise US citizens to avoid travelling to the airport and to avoid airport gates."

Meanwhile, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and German Chancellor Angela Merkel discussed the situation in Afghanistan on Saturday and agreed on the need for international aid and a common approach by the G7 to the future government of Afghanistan.

“The Prime Minister and Chancellor resolved to work, alongside the rest of the G7, to put in place the roadmap on dealing with any new Afghan government discussed at last week’s leaders’ meeting,” Johnson’s office said in a statement.

“The Prime Minister stressed that any recognition and engagement with the Taliban must be conditional on them allowing safe passage for those who want to leave the country and respecting human rights,” the British statement added.