Three children killed by US air strike targeting 'multiple suicide bombers' in Kabul

29 August 2021, 16:21 | Updated: 29 August 2021, 21:57

The US armed forces are keeping security at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul.
The US armed forces are keeping security at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul. Picture: Alamy/Twitter

By Sophie Barnett

Three children were killed in a drone strike that US officials said struck a vehicle carrying 'multiple suicide bombers' heading for Kabul airport, an Afghan official said.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity out of security concerns.

It comes after the US said it was “assessing the possibilities” of having killed or injured civilians in the airstrike on Sunday.

US officials said the vehicle was carrying explosives and that the initial strike on Sunday set off secondary explosions.

The US officials said the bombers planned to attack Kabul's international airport, where a massive airlift is still under way ahead of a Tuesday deadline for the withdrawal of US forces.

At around the same time as the drone strike, Afghan police said a rocket hit a neighbourhood near the airport, killing a child.

The two strikes initially appeared to be separate incidents.

US officials have not confirmed claims that the drone strike killed three children.

The air strike is the second attack by the Americans since a devastating suicide bomb killed more than 150 people on Thursday.

Isis claimed responsibility for the attack on the airport.

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Two American military sources called the most recent air strike successful.

They said it caused "significant secondary explosions" indicating the presence of a substantial amount of explosive material in the vehicle.

Read more: Two 'high-profile' Isis-K members killed and one wounded in US drone strike

Read more: Afghanistan: Three British nationals including a child die in Kabul airport attack

On Saturday, Americans launched a strike in Nangarhar province, killing an IS member believed to have been involved in planning attacks against the US in Kabul.

The latest strike came as the US winds down a historic airlift that saw tens of thousands evacuated from Kabul's international airport, the scene of much of the chaos that engulfed the Afghan capital since the Taliban took over two weeks ago.

US troops will be leaving Kabul airport by August 31, after the Taliban told the US they must stick to the deadline.

President Joe Biden has vowed to "hunt down" those responsible for the devastating suicide bomb at Kabul's airport, which killed 13 US troops, between 79 and 169 Afghans and three Brits, one of whom was a child.

Grandfather Sultan Rez, a London taxi driver, had flown to Pakistan at the beginning of the week and driven to Afghanistan to help his family board a UK-bound evacuation flight.

He was killed in the blast alongside two other British victims - also from London - Mohammad Niazi and 60 year-old Musa Popal.

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On Saturday, the US President warned that another attack on the airport was "highly likely" within the next 24 to 36 hours and members of his team on the ground said the situation was still "very dangerous".

It comes as the last British troops arrived back in the UK on Sunday morning, after the government put an end to Operation Pitting.

The last British troops left Afghanistan on Saturday evening, ending the British's 20-year campaign in the country.

The Ambassador to Afghanistan, Laurie Bristow, was among those returning home as he landed at Brize Norton on Sunday.

In a video posted on his Twitter, he says the embassy will operate remotely from Qatar for now.

The evacuation operation has lifted 15,000 people from Kabul in a fortnight, in what was the largest operation since the Second World War.

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Among those fleeing were approximately 2,200 children, who have now been lifted to safety - the youngest of whom was just one day old.

In the last two weeks 5,000 British nationals and their families, over 8,000 Afghan former UK staff and their families and many highly vulnerable Afghan people have been brought out of the country on over 100 RAF flights.

The number of Afghans brought to the UK under the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (ARAP) since it was established in April is now around 10,000 in total – double the number anticipated this year.

In a video clip uploaded to Twitter on Sunday morning, Mr Johnson said: "UK troops and officials have worked around the clock to a remorseless deadline in harrowing conditions.

"They have expended all the patience and care and thought they possess to help people in fear for their lives.

"They've seen at first-hand barbaric terrorist attacks on the queues of people they were trying to comfort, as well as on our American friends.

"They didn't flinch. They kept calm. They got on with the job.

"It's thanks to their colossal exertions that this country has now processed, checked, vetted and airlifted more than 15,000 people to safety in less than two weeks."

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Downing Street said the government intends to re-establish its diplomatic presence in Kabul as soon as the security and political situation in the country allows and are coordinating this effort with allies.

The head of the armed forces, Gen Sir Nick Carter, said hundreds of Afghans eligible to come to the UK remained in Afghanistan, and it was "heartbreaking" that not everybody had been rescued.

The Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said that the UK's obligation to those left behind "does not end with our leaving".

He said: "There will be many lessons to learn but over the last 20 years there are also endless examples of amazing achievements, bravery and friendships formed. We will not forget those who lost their lives."

The Taliban is pledging to allow all foreign nationals to leave Afghanistan, along with any Afghans who other countries have agreed to take in.