A U.S. investigation of the ISIS suicide bombing attack that killed 13 U.S. service members and at least 160 civilians at the Kabul airport last summer, was determined to be carried out by a lone actor, not a complex operation as initially thought.
U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) commanding Gen. Frank McKenzie revealed the investigation’s findings during a press release on Friday. The investigative team, led by Brig. Gen. Lance Curtis, reached their conclusions after interviewing more than 139 people and 250 evidence exhibits over a three and half month time period.
During the briefing, McKenzie announced that the investigation revealed the 13 U.S. troops and 160 civilians killed at the Abbey Gate entrance of the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul on Aug. 26, died as the result of a single explosive blast, rather than a coordinated attack by an ISIS suicide bomber and ISIS gunmen.
McKenzie acknowledged that the findings contradicted an assessment he gave on the day of the attack, that the mass casualty attack was carried out by multiple members of ISIS-K, the Afghan branch of the Islamic State terror group.
“At the time, the best information we had in the immediate aftermath of the attack indicated that it was a complex attack by both a suicide bomber and ISIS-K gunmen,” McKenzie said.
McKenzie said ball bearings used in the suicide bomb had created wounds that looked like gunshots, and a “small number of warning shots” were also fired, which he said “led many to assume that a complex attack had occurred.”
The investigation found “no definitive evidence” that anyone was injured or killed as a result of gunfire, either by U.S. or Afghan troops, or ISIS gunmen.
Curtis said there was no evidence that U.S. service members killed other U.S. service members or Afghans following the initial bomb blast.
Curtis also reiterated that medical examiners determined wounds from the attack were from ball bearings and that no one sustained gunshot wounds.
“The fact that this investigation has contradicted what I originally said, demonstrates to me that the team went into this investigation with an open mind in search of the truth,” McKenzie said.
McKenzie said investigators also determined military leaders at the airport appropriately initiated force protection measures throughout the U.S. military-led evacuation efforts from Kabul. McKenzie said medical services were on hand at the time of the attack and “saved every life they possibly could through heroic efforts.”
“While nothing can bring back the 11 Marines, 1 Soldier and Sailor that we
tragically lost in the attack, it is important that we fully understand what
happened,” he added.