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The death toll from the attack outside the airport in Kabul rose to more than 100 Friday as evacuation flights resumed and former President Barack Obama condemned the attacks, which killed 13 U.S. service members — the deadliest assault on American forces in more than a decade.
The Associated Press reported that the number of fatalities — which include at least 85 Afghan civilians — is likely to rise. Two unnamed officials told the AP that 169 Afghans died, but a final count might take time amid confusion, with many bodies dismembered or not yet identified.
U.S. officials believe the attack was carried out by ISIS-K, an affiliate of the Islamic State terrorist group in Afghanistan.
At a Pentagon briefing on Friday, Maj. Gen. Hank Taylor said military officials have determined that there was only one explosion, carried out by a suicide bomber near a gate at Hamid Karzai International Airport. A second reported explosion at or near the Baron Hotel did not occur, he said.
Taylor said two flights carrying 15 U.S. service members wounded in the attack arrived at Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany and transported the members to a hospital, where they are receiving medical care.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said there are still “specific, credible threats” to Americans and Afghans in Kabul.
“We certainly are prepared and would expect future attempts,” Kirby said on Friday.
Despite the attack and ongoing security threats, the Biden administration has vowed to continue its evacuation mission.
According to the White House, approximately 12,500 people were evacuated from Kabul in the last 24 hours on 35 U.S. military flights and 54 coalition flights. The United States has evacuated approximately 105,000 people, including Americans, Afghan allies and their families, since Aug. 14, following the Taliban’s takeover of Kabul.
The Pentagon said there are more than 5,000 people at the airport currently awaiting flights out of Afghanistan.
In a statement, Obama said he and former first lady Michelle Obama were “heartbroken” to hear about the attack.
“As president, nothing was more painful than grieving with the loved ones of Americans who gave their lives serving our country,” Obama said Friday. “These service members are heroes who have been engaged in a dangerous, selfless mission to save the lives of others. Our hearts go out to the families who lost a loved one, and to everyone continuing the mission in Kabul. We’re also thinking of the families of the Afghans who died, many of whom stood by America and were willing to risk everything for a chance at a better life.”
He added: “May God bless the memory of those we lost, and protect those who remain in harm’s way.”
In a somber address to the nation Thursday, President Biden vowed to hunt down those responsible.
“We will not forgive; we will not forget,” he said. “We will hunt you down and make you pay.”
The U.S. has been racing to evacuate as many people from Afghanistan as possible before Aug. 31, when the last American troops are scheduled to withdraw from the country.
Earlier this week, Biden said he intends to stick with that withdrawal deadline, despite calls to extend it. He cited the growing threat that ISIS-K poses to U.S. troops on the ground in Kabul.
“Every day we’re on the ground is another day we know ISIS-K is seeking to target the airport,” Biden said Tuesday. “The sooner we can finish, the better.”
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