U.S. launched a drone strike, apparently killing an Islamic State “planner”, two days after the group claimed a deadly bombing outside Kabul airport.
Among the 92 killed in the Kabul suicide blast, claimed by Afghanistan’s Islamic State affiliate, 79 were Afghan citizen and 13 were U.S. service members.
The U.S. drone strike was launched against an Islamic State militant who was planning attacks, a U.S. official, spoke on the condition of anonymity.
A reaper drone, which took off from the Middle East, struck the militant who was in a car with an Islamic State associate. Both are believed to have been killed, the official said.
U.S. Central Command said the strike took place in Nangarhar province, without confirming whether the target was connected with the airport attack.
“Initial indications are that we killed the target. We know of no civilian casualties,” the U.S. military said in a statement, referring to overnight drone strike.
A resident of the eastern city of Jalalabad, capital of Nangarhar province, said he heard several explosions around midnight on Friday.
“Today we checked and heard it was an air strike that hit a civilian house,” Sayed Ekram told Reuters, adding he had no information about casualties. It was not clear if the blasts were caused by a U.S. drone strike.
A senior Taliban commander said some IS-K members had been arrested in connection with the Kabul attack. “They are being interrogated by our intelligence team,” the commander said.
The number of Afghans killed in the airport bomb attack rose to 79, a hospital official told Reuters on Friday, adding that more than 120 were wounded. Some media reported a death toll of up to 170.
The United States expects some engagement with the Taliban will be necessary after the withdrawal to facilitate further evacuations, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said.
“The reality is, the Taliban control large swaths of Afghanistan,” she told reporters. “So by necessity, that is our option.”
Biden is already facing criticism at home and abroad for the chaos surrounding the troop withdrawal and evacuations. As the Taliban rapidly advanced to Kabul amid the pullout, Afghanistan’s Western-backed government and military collapsed.