Pentagon Says Kabul Attack Carried Out by One Bomber as Death Toll Rises

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A Taliban fighter stands guard at the site of the suicide bomb, which killed scores of people including 13 US troops, at Kabul airport yesterday.
A Taliban fighter stands guard at the site of the suicide bomb, which killed scores of people including 13 US troops, at Kabul airport yesterday.Credit: WAKIL KOHSAR - AFP

A deadly attack in Afghanistan's capital Kabul on Thursday was carried out by a single suicide bomber at a gate to the airport and there was no second explosion at a nearby hotel, the Pentagon said on Friday.

The Kabul airport attack on Thursday, which killed 13 U.S. troops and at least 79 Afghans, was claimed by Islamic State militants. U.S. media cite local officials saying up to 170 dead. The Islamic State's Afghan affiliate, ISIS-Khorosan, has emerged as an enemy of both the West and of the Taliban.

"I can confirm for you that we do not believe that there was a second explosion at or near the Baron Hotel, that it was one suicide bomber," Army Major General William Taylor told reporters. He said U.S. troops wounded in the attack were now being treated in Germany.

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Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told the reporters the United States believed there are still "specific, credible" threats.

"We certainly are prepared and would expect future attempts," Kirby said, adding: "We're monitoring these threats, very, very specifically, virtually in real time."

Thursday's attack occurred during a U.S.-led evacuation of tens of thousands of people. The Taliban came to power nearly two weeks ago as foreign forces began withdrawing, ending a 20-year war.

U.S. General Frank McKenzie, the head of U.S. Central Command, had said on Thursday that initial information was that two suicide bombers had attacked the airport gate and the nearby Baron hotel.

On Thursday, President Joe Biden vowed the United States would hunt down the attackers of twin explosions at the Kabul airport in Afghanistan and said he has asked the Pentagon to develop plans to strike back at them.

"We will not forgive, we will not forget. We will hunt you down and make you pay," he said in remarks at the White House.

Biden said U.S. evacuations would continue. He gave no indication of a change in next Tuesday's U.S. pullout target, and said he stood by the decision to withdraw from Afghanistan. 

"I have also ordered my commanders to develop operational plans to strike ISIS-K assets, leadership and facilities. We will respond with force and precision at our time, at the place we choose and the moment of our choosing," Biden said.

In a briefing after Biden's remarks, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said that it is not going to be possible to evacuate every Afghan who wants to get out of the county before the U.S. military withdraws on August 31. Psaki said there is no end date on any commitment to evacuate any American who wants to get out of Afghanistan, even after the military withdrawal.

It was believed to be the most U.S. troops killed in Afghanistan in a single incident since 30 U.S. personnel died when a helicopter was shot down in August 2011.

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