Vehicle carrying ‘multiple suicide bombers’ from ISIL affiliate hit before they could target airport, US officials say.
Several children have been killed in a US drone attack that destroyed a car laden with explosives near the international airport in Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul, according to witnesses.
Witnesses told Al Jazeera at least three children were among six civilians who died in Sunday’s attack, while some media reports say nine members of one family – including six children – were among the dead.
The United States’s Central Command (CENTCOM) said it was aware of “reports of civilian casualties” following the drone attack, which it said hit “multiple suicide bombers” who were preparing to attack the ongoing evacuations at the Kabul airport.
CENTCOM said it had launched investigations.
Sunday’s attack was the second by US forces in Afghanistan since a member of the ISIL-affiliated Islamic State in Khorasan Province, ISKP (ISIS-K) detonated his explosives at the airport on Thursday, killing dozens of Afghan civilians trying to flee the Taliban-controlled country.
Thirteen US soldiers were among the 175 victims.
A senior US official told the Associated Press (AP) news agency Sunday’s attack came after individuals were seen loading explosives into the boot of a vehicle parked in a residential compound near Kabul airport. The US military drone fired a Hellfire missile at the car.
The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said two ISKP members who were targeted were killed.
CENTCOM said it was still “assessing the results of this attack, which we know disrupted an imminent ISIS-K threat to the airport”.
It said the destruction of the vehicle resulted in “substantial and powerful subsequent explosions”, indicating a large amount of explosive material was stored there.
The secondary blasts “may have caused the additional casualties,” CENTCOM said, adding: “It is unclear what may have happened and we are investigating further.”
In Kabul, witnesses reported a large blast shaking the neighbourhood where the vehicle was parked and television footage showed black smoke rising into the sky.
Several other media reports also reported civilian casualties.
Dina Mohammadi told AP that her extended family resided in the building and that several of them were killed, including children. She was not immediately able to provide the names or ages of the deceased.
Ahmaduddin, a neighbour who goes by one name, said he had collected the bodies of children after the attack, which set off more explosions inside the house.
The CNN broadcaster, meanwhile, reported nine civilian casualties, including six children. It said all nine victims were members of one family.
CENTCOM said it “would be deeply saddened by any potential loss of innocent life”.
There was no immediate comment from the ISKP.
The group, which claimed the suicide bombing at the Kabul airport on Thursday, has previously carried out bombings mainly aimed at Afghanistan’s Shia minority, including a 2020 assault on a maternity hospital in Kabul that killed women and newborns.
The Taliban have fought against the ISIL affiliate in the past and pledged – during negotiations with the US last year – not to allow Afghanistan to become a base for “terror attacks”.
The US, which invaded Afghanistan following the September 2001 attacks, is due to pull all of its troops out of the country on August 31.
Along with its allies, the US has airlifted more than 114,000 Afghans and foreigners since August 15, when the Taliban took over Kabul.