On Thursday evening, a U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) spokesman confirmed to American Military News that the death toll from the suicide bomb attacks at the Kabul airport had risen to 13 U.S. troops killed and 18 injured.
“A thirteenth U.S. service member has died from his wounds suffered as a result of the attack on Abbey Gate,” CENTCOM spokesman Capt. Bill Urban said. “The latest number of injured is now 18, all of whom are in the process of being aeromedically evacuated from Afghanistan on specially equipped C-17s with embarked surgical units. We continue to provide the best possible medical care to those injured.”
Urban’s updated casualty numbers came just hours after Marine Corps Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., commander of U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), announced that 12 U.S. service members were killed in a pair of suicide bombing attacks on the Kabul Airport earlier in the day and 15 more U.S. service members were injured.
ISIS has claimed responsibility for the bombing attacks.
McKenzie’s report of 12 service members killed was itself an updated casualty estimate from four service members killed, as reported by both Fox News and the Wall Street Journal earlier on Thursday. Fox News reported the death toll was likely to increase as more information becomes available.
McKenzie said, “We’re still working to calculate the total loss as we just don’t know what that is right now.”
The U.S. service members killed on Thursday are the first U.S. service members to be killed in Afghanistan in over a year and a half. Two U.S. service members were shot and killed in an ambush attack in February of 2020 and six more were wounded during that same attack.
“If we can find who’s associated with this, we will go after them. We’ve been clear all along that we’re going to retain the right to operate against ISIS in Afghanistan,” McKenzie said. “We are working very hard right to determine attribution – to determine who is associated with this cowardly attack – and we’re prepared to take action against them. 24/7 we are looking for them.”
The culprit behind the bombing attacks did not immediately claim responsibility, but as McKenzie delivered his remarks, ISIS came forward.
Middle East Institute senior fellow Charles Lister tweeted, “BREAKING — #ISIS claim responsibility for today’s attack in #Kabul: The #ISIS claim ID’s the attacker as Abdulrahman al-Logari (from #Logar province) — says he reached ‘within 5 meters’ of U.S. forces before detonating his explosives.”
McKenzie went on to say, “Any time you build a noncombatant evacuation plan like this and you bring in forces, you expect to be attacked. We thought that this would happen sooner or later. It’s tragic that it happened today. It’s tragic that there was this much loss of life.”
In addition to the U.S. casualties, the New York Times reported one Afghan health official said a total of 30 people were killed in the bombing attacks. A second Afghan health official said 40 people were killed. Both health officials also said an additional 120 people were injured.
NBC correspondent Richard Engel separately tweeted, “12 US service members killed in Kabul airport attack, pentagon says. Medical official in kabul says 60 Afghans killed, and number expected to rise.”
A British security official told the Wall Street Journal that both attacks were carried out by suicide bombers.
A third explosion near the Kabul airport has also been reported.
Prior to the series of airport bombing attacks, the U.S., U.K. and Australia all warned their citizens on Thursday to avoid the Kabul airport after multiple threats of attack. In a Thursday interview with the BBC, U.K. Armed Forces Minister James Heappey said, “There is now very, very credible reporting of an imminent attack.”
Despite the prior warnings, many people continued to rush for the Kabul airport in hopes of getting out of the country. Heappey said, “People are desperate, people are fearing for their lives anyway, and so I think there’s an appetite among many in the queue to take their chances.”
The airport attacks come as hundreds of people are still waiting to be evacuated from the country.
On Wednesday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said there were about 500 Americans who had needed help to get to the Kabul airport and another 1,000 people who might need help, but whose citizenship or desire to leave were uncertain.