Rockets hit the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul on Monday, less than 48 hours before the United States is due to complete its troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, AP reported. The deadline for the exit of the soldiers from Afghanistan is August 31.
No casualties have so far been reported in the incident, according to a US official. Witnesses also confirmed that a rocket hit a building near the airport but there were no casualties.
In a statement, the White House confirmed there had been a rocket attack at the airport, but said that operations were “uninterrupted”. US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and Chief of Staff Ron Klain have briefed President Joe Biden about the attack, the White House said.
“The President...has reconfirmed his order that commanders redouble their efforts to prioritise doing whatever is necessary to protect our forces on the ground,” the White House added.
Five rockets were fired at the Kabul airport and a counter rocket, artillery, and mortar, or C-RAM, missile defence system tried to thwart the attack, an unidentified US official told CNN. However, there has been no confirmation on how many rockets were intercepted.
Afghans also reported hearing the sound of the airport’s defence system and shrapnel falling on the streets, which indicated that at least one rocket had been intercepted, according to AFP.
A US official claimed that the Islamic State-Khorasan was responsible for the attack, but added that it was too early to confirm.
The attack was reportedly carried out using a civilian vehicle, part of which had been converted into an improvised platform to launch the rockets, according to CNN. The news channel said it has videos of a vehicle that went up in flames after the rockets were fired.
The car that seemed to have been modified for the attack was covered with debris, glass and melted rubber from the tires, according to CNN.
‘Multiple suicide bombers’ killed in airstrike: US
The rockets were fired at the airport a day after the United States conducted an airstrike in Kabul to target a suspected Islamic State-Khorasan suicide attack. It was targeted at a vehicle that was ferrying “multiple suicide bombers” from the terrorist group, American officials told AP.
The airstrike on Sunday was the second such action taken by the United States within a span of three days. On Friday, the United States military conducted an unmanned airstrike against a planner of the Islamic State-Khorasan.
United States Navy Captain Bill Urban said the latest airstrike was conducted in “self-defence”, reported Al Jazeera.
“We are confident we successfully hit the target,” he added. However, the United States said there may have been civilian casualties due to the airstrikes, adding that the country was assessing the situation on the ground.
Urban said that the military “would be deeply saddened by any potential loss of innocent life”, according to CNN.
Reports suggested that children were killed during the airstrikes, but there is no clarity yet.
CNN reported that nine members of a family, which included six minors, were killed in the airstrike.
The Taliban also confirmed that the American airstrike targeted suicide bombers. “The vehicle and those inside it were killed in the drone strike,” the insurgent group’s spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid said, according to Al Jazeera.
Mujahid described the US strike as arbitrary, the China Global Television Network reported. “If there was any potential threat, it should have been reported to us, not an arbitrary attack that has resulted in civilian casualties,” he told the news network.
A member of the insurgent group, Abdulhaq Wasiq, also claimed that the United States was exaggerating the presence of the Islamic State in Afghanistan.
“Daesh [ISIS] will not last in Afghanistan,” Wasiq told TOLO News. “We have signed an agreement with Americans in Doha regarding this and the attack is against the agreement. Based on the agreement, they are not allowed to interfere in Afghanistan affairs after their withdrawal.”
After the strike on Sunday evening, reports said that at least one child was killed after a rocket hit a residential locality near Kabul airport.
Meanwhile, the United States State Department on Sunday released a statement signed by close to 100 countries, as well as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the European Union, about “assurances” from the Taliban, reported AP.
The statement said that those with travel documents would be allowed to leave Afghanistan. The Taliban said they will also allow regular travel after the United States withdraws all its soldiers from the country by Tuesday and the group takes control of the Kabul airport.