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Single suicide bomber carried out Afghan airport massacre, Pentagon says

Amid chaotic U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, ISIS attack killed 13 U.S. troops, at least 170 Afghans

Published: February 4, 2022 6:27pm

Updated: February 4, 2022 7:16pm

The terrorist attack that killed 13 U.S. soldiers in Kabul, Afghanistan, in August 2021 was carried out by a single suicide bomber and "not preventable," the Pentagon has concluded.

U.S. military officials on Friday announced the findings of the Pentagon's months-long investigation into the attack at Kabul's international airport, where American troops were screening frantic Afghans trying to leave the country as the Taliban seized power.

"A single, explosive device killed at least 170 Afghan civilians and 13 U.S. service members by explosively directing ball bearings through a packed crowd and into our men and women," said Gen. Frank McKenzie, head of U.S. Central Command. "The disturbing lethality of this device was confirmed by the 58 U.S. service members who were killed and wounded despite the universal wear of body armor and helmets that did stop ball bearings that impacted them, but could not prevent catastrophic injuries to areas not covered."

Brig. Gen. Lance Curtis, who led the investigation, said that, based upon his findings, "at the tactical level this was not preventable."

The Islamic State, or ISIS, claimed responsibility for the attack, which occurred on Aug. 26. No U.S. soldiers had been killed in combat in Afghanistan since February 2020, prior to the attack. 

The airport attack occurred as the U.S. was withdrawing all troops from Afghanistan in accordance with President Biden's orders. Amid the withdrawal, the Taliban took control of the country, where it has formed a new government and begun imposing its fundamentalist version of Islamic law.

U.S. military investigators didn't speak to any Afghan witnesses about the airport attack, according to the New York Times, which noted officials relied heavily on drone footage to reach their conclusions.

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