Thirteen US soldiers were killed and 18 others injured in the attack outside the Kabul airport carried out by the Islamic State in one of the worst terrorist strikes in Afghanistan in over a year, the Pentagon has said.
The terrorist attack was carried out by ISIS gunmen, General Kenneth Franklin McKenzie, Commander of the United States Central Command, told reporters at a Pentagon news conference on Thursday, hours after the terrorists opened gunfire at American soldiers standing outside the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul.
“The attack on the Abbey Gate was followed by a number of ISIS gunmen who opened fire on civilians and military forces,” McKenzie said.
By late Thursday, the US Central Command said 13 American marines died in the attack, while 18 were injured.
“I can confirm that subsequent to Gen. McKenzie’s remarks, a 13th US service member has died from his wounds suffered as a result of the attack on Abbey Gate. The latest number of injured is now 18, all of whom are in the process of being aeromedically evacuated from Afghanistan on specially equipped C-17s with embarked surgical units,” Central Command spokesperson Capt Bill Urban said.
McKenzie in the press conference had said as per the information available that time, 12 US service members were killed and 15 others injured in the attack.
A number of Afghan civilians were also killed and injured in the attack, he said, adding that some of them are being treated at the airport.
“Many other Afghan civilians have been taken out to hospitals in town. We’re still working to calculate the total losses. We just don’t know what that is right now. Their loss weighs heavily on us all,” McKenzie told reporters.
Afghan officials in Kabul have said that at least 60 Afghans were killed and another 143 were wounded when two suicide bombers and gunmen attacked crowds of Afghans flocking to Kabul’s airport.
Responding to questions, McKenzie said the threat from the ISIS is extremely real.
“We’ve been talking about this for several days. It has now actually manifested itself here just in the last few hours with an actual attack. We believe it is their desire to continue those attacks, and we expect those attacks to continue,” he said.
The US is doing everything it can to be prepared for those attacks.
“That includes reaching out to the Taliban, who are actually providing the outer security cordon around the airfield, to make sure they know what we expect them to do to protect us. And we will continue to coordinate with them as they go forward,” McKenzie said.
“We are continuing to bring people onto the airfield. We just brought a number of buses aboard the airfield over the last couple of three hours. So, we continue to process.
Observing that the US is still investigating the exact circumstances of the attack, he said the incident occurred at a gate of the airport.
Meanwhile, as a mark of respect for the US service members and other victims killed in the terrorist attack, President Joe Biden ordered that the flag of the United States shall be flown at half-staff at the White House and upon all public buildings and grounds, at all military posts and naval stations, and on all naval vessels of the federal government.
“I express my deepest condolences to the loved ones and teammates of all those killed and wounded in Kabul…Terrorists took their lives at the very moment these troops were trying to save the lives of others,” said Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin.
Mourning the loss of the US service members, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the Congress, on a bipartisan basis, remains deeply concerned about the security and humanitarian situation in Afghanistan.
Senator Mark Warner, Chairman of the Senate Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, said he is closely tracking the ‘horrifying’ situation in Kabul and will remain in touch with intelligence and administration officials ‘as we learn more about today’s attacks’.
“As we await more information regarding the casualties, my thoughts will be with our troops and with the innocent people killed in these brutal acts of terror,” he said.
Former US President Donald Trump in a statement said, “Melania and I send our deepest condolences to the families of our brilliant and brave Service Members whose duty to the USA meant so much to them. Our thoughts are also with the families of the innocent civilians who died today in the savage Kabul attack.”
“This tragedy should never have been allowed to happen, which makes our grief even deeper and more difficult to understand,” he said.