American forces launched a drone strike in Kabul on Sunday targeting a suicide bomber in a vehicle who was aiming to attack the airport, U.S. officials said, as the United States nears the end of its military presence in the city.
The strike, first reported by Reuters, is the second carried out by U.S. forces in Afghanistan since an Islamic State suicide bomber struck the airport on Thursday, killing 13 U.S. troops and scores of Afghan civilians trying to flee the country.
On Saturday, U.S. President Joe Biden said the situation on the ground remained extremely dangerous, and that his military chiefs had told him another militant attack was highly likely within the next 24-36 hours.
U.S. officials had said they were particularly concerned about the local affiliate of Islamic State attacking the airport as American troops depart, in particular the threat from rockets and vehicle-borne explosives.
One U.S. official said Sunday's strike was carried out by an unmanned aircraft piloted from outside Afghanistan, and that secondary explosions following the strike showed the target had been carrying a "substantial amount of explosive material".
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Witnesses reported an explosion near the airport and television footage showed black smoke rising into the sky. There was no immediate word on casualties.
Two witnesses said the blast appeared to have been caused by a rocket that struck a house in an area to the northern side of the airport, but there was no immediate confirmation.
The Associated Press reported another blast in Afghanistan Sunday, but it wasn’t clear if the two explosions were connected.
Following Thursday's suicide bombing, the U.S. military launched a drone strike on Friday that it said targeted members of the group in Nangarhar Province, east of Kabul.
That strike killed two "high-profile" ISIS-K planners and facilitators and wounded another, the Pentagon said.
U.S. military cargo planes continued their runs into the airport Sunday, ahead of a Tuesday deadline earlier set by President Joe Biden to withdraw all troops from America’s longest war. However, Afghans remaining behind in the country worry about the Taliban reverting to their earlier oppressive rule — something fueled by the recent shooting death of a folk singer in the country by the insurgents.