Afghan officials have claimed three children were killed in a U.S drone strike that also killed ISIS suicide bombers on their way to wreak havoc at Kabul airport.
The strike came after Joe Biden warned more attacks were expected in the coming hours as the desperate scramble to save Afghan refugees and evacuate soldiers ramps up before the Tuesday’s deadline.
Witnesses to the drone strike said it targeted two car bombs parked in a residential building near the airport, killing and wounding several civilians.
Officials had initially reported a separate rocket attack on a building near the airport, but it turned out to be the same event.
Dina Mohammadi said 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.
Karim, a district representative, said the strike ignited a fire that made it difficult to rescue people. “There was smoke everywhere and I took some children and women out,” he said.
Ahmaduddin, a neighbor, said he had collected the bodies of children after the strike, which set off more explosions inside the house. Like many Afghans, the two men each go by one name.
There was no immediate comment from U.S. officials after the reports of civilian casualties surfaced.
Two American military officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss military operations, called the airstrike successful and said the vehicle carried multiple bombers.
U.S. Navy Capt. Bill Urban, a military spokesman, said the strike was carried out in “self-defense.” He said the military was investigating whether there were civilian casualties but that “we have no indications at this time.”
“We are confident we successfully hit the target,” Urban said. “Significant secondary explosions from the vehicle indicated the presence of a substantial amount of explosive material.”
The strike just two days before the U.S. is set to conclude a massive airlift of tens of thousands of Afghan and foreign civilians and withdraw the last of its troops, ending America’s longest war with the Taliban back in power.
A previous Islamic State suicide attack outside the airport killed at least 169 Afghans and 13 U.S. service members. The U.S. carried out a drone strike elsewhere in the country on Saturday that it said killed two IS members.