US drone strike hits Islamic State car bomb in Kabul, officials say

WASHINGTON: American forces launched a drone strike in Kabul on Sunday (Aug 29) targeting a suicide bomber in a vehicle who was aiming to attack the airport, United States officials said, as the country nears the end of its military presence in the city.

The strike, first reported by Reuters, is the second carried out by US forces in Afghanistan since an Islamic State suicide bomber struck the airport on Thursday, killing 13 US troops and scores of Afghan civilians trying to flee the country.

On Saturday, US President Joe Biden said that 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 to 36 hours.

US 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 US official said that Sunday’s strike was carried out by an unmanned aircraft piloted from outside Afghanistan, and that secondary explosions following the strike showed that the target had been carrying a “substantial amount of explosive material”.

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 that 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.

Following Thursday’s suicide bombing, the US 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. 

About 114,000 people have fled Afghanistan via a US-led evacuation since the Taliban swept back into power two weeks ago, and the operation is winding down despite Western powers saying that thousands may be left behind.

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