A suicide bombing on Thursday outside the Hamid Karzai International Airpot in Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, killed 13 U.S. service members and more than 60 Afghan civilians.
The blast also injured more than 100 people, including 18 U.S. service members.
General Kenneth F. McKenzie, the head of the United States Central Command, confirmed the American toll at a virtual news conference, warning that there might be more attacks to come, citing an earlier pattern.
The deadly explosion occurred outside the Abbey Gate where thousands of Afghans have been gathering daily in hope they would be able to flee the country via U.S. military planes. The Pentagon confirmed that a second explosion later took place outside the Baron Hotel also near the Kabul airport.
President Joseph R. Biden Jr. was briefed by his national security team and briefed the nation on Thursday evening from the White House.
In an earlier statement, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby confirmed the two explosions outside Kabul’s airport and said there were “U.S. and civilian casualties.”
“We can confirm that a number of U.S. service members were killed in today’s complex attack at Kabul airport,” Kirby said in a statement. “A number of others are being treated for wounds.” The Pentagon spokesman did not say how many people were killed or injured.
It is the first U.S. military fatalities in Afghanistan since February 2020 when two American soldiers were killed by an Afghan soldier in an inside attack.
The Kabul bombing is believed to have been carried out by ISIS K, an affiliate of the Islamic State, a group President Biden has described as an enemy of the Taliban.
A report quoted a U.S. official as saying that communications that were made by the group around the time of the attack pointed to ISIS K as the main culprit.
The Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid, condemned the attack. He said 13 civilians had been killed and 60 had been wounded. That number quickly changed as a clearer picture began to emerge.
“On behalf of the men and women of the Department of Defense, I express my deepest condolences to the loved ones and teammates of all those killed and wounded in Kabul today. Terrorists took their lives at the very moment these troops were trying to save the lives of others,” Secretary Austin said.
He added, “We mourn their loss. We will treat their wounds. And we will support their families in what will most assuredly be devastating grief. But we will not be dissuaded from the task at hand. To do anything less — especially now — would dishonor the purpose and sacrifice these men and women have rendered our country and the people of Afghanistan.”