Pentagon says deadly Afghan airport attack was carried out by a single suicide bomber and not a complex operation

Feb 4, 2022, 11:22 AM | Updated: Jun 8, 2022, 3:18 pm
A Taliban fighter stands guard at the site of the August 26 twin suicide bombs, which killed scores...
A Taliban fighter stands guard at the site of the August 26 twin suicide bombs, which killed scores of people including 13 US troops, at Kabul airport on August 27, 2021. (Photo by WAKIL KOHSAR / AFP) (Photo by WAKIL KOHSAR/AFP via Getty Images)
(Photo by WAKIL KOHSAR/AFP via Getty Images)

(CNN) — Gen. Frank McKenzie, the head of US Central Command, said a Pentagon investigation into the August 2021 bombing outside the Kabul airport that killed 13 US service members was the result of a single bomber, and it was not the “complex” attack that US officials initially described.

McKenzie spoke at a Pentagon briefing Friday to unveil the findings of the US military investigation into the bombing at the Abbey Gate at Kabul International Airport, where 11 Marines, 1 Army soldier and 1 Navy sailor — along with at least 170 Afghans — were killed.

“The investigation found that a single, explosive device killed at least 170 Afghan civilians and 13 US servicemembers by explosively directing ball bearings through a packed crowd and into our men and women at Abbey gate,” McKenzie said ahead of a briefing from the investigators.

McKenzie acknowledged the conclusion was different from what the Pentagon initially believed.

“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,” he said. “We now know that the explosively-fired ball bearings caused wounds that looked like gunshots, and when combined with a small number of warning shots that led many to assume that a complex attack had occurred.”

The investigation turned up no evidence that any Americans or Afghans were hit or killed by gunfire, Mckenzie said.

He said that the Pentagon investigation was undertaken to explain to family members of those killed what happened, and included testimony from more than 100 people.

The attack came as US and foreign troops were conducting chaotic evacuation efforts to help get Afghans and foreigners out of the country before US troops completed their withdrawal from the country on August 31. ISIS in Khorasan, known as ISIS-K, said an ISIS militant carried out the attack.

McKenzie said Friday that the investigation into the bombing “found that military leadership on the ground was appropriately engaged on force protection measures throughout the operation of Abbey Gate and that the medical services that were available and that were ready saved every life they possibly could through heroic efforts.”

“This was a terrible attack that resulted in tragic outcomes and a horrific loss of life,” McKenzie, said at a briefing Friday.

This story is breaking and will be updated.

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Pentagon says deadly Afghan airport attack was carried out by a single suicide bomber and not a complex operation