Defense Secretary James Mattis was the target of a failed Kabul airport attack in Afghanistan Wednesday, the Taliban claimed, according to multiple media outlets.
Less than two hours after Mattis landed at the Hamid Karzai International Airport to attend a meeting with Afghanistan’s President Ghani, rockets and rocket propelled grenades hit the airport.
The Taliban and the Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack. It is unclear how many were injured.
Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid tweeted saying that Mattis was the target of the attack.
U.S. officials said up to 40 munitions were fired, 29 of which were rocket-propelled grenades.
Mattis called the attack a “criminal act by terrorists” at a press conference with President Ghani and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, who was also on the plane that Mattis was on prior to the attack.
“It’s designed to go after generally innocent people to make some sort of statement,” Mattis said. “This is a classic definition of what the Taliban are up to right now. It defines their approach to how they see their role here and if in fact this is what they have done, they will find the Afghan security forces continuing on the offensive against them in every district of the country right now. So it is what it is, but it’s also the reason why we band together, and we don’t question what we’re doing here.”
An Afghan special forces unit was used to search houses to see where the rockets were fired from, Afghan Interior Ministry spokesman Najib Danish told CNN.
The meeting was the first time Mattis visited Afghanistan since the announcement that an additional 3,500 troops would be sent to Afghanistan to join the 11,000 already on the ground.
Mattis landed in Kabul after spending time in India and meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to further develop the partnership between both countries.