Deadly Attack on Kabul Airport: ISIS Operative Tells CNN The Group Waited For 'Perfect Time'

Published August 29th, 2021 - 09:58 GMT
ISIS-K commander spoke to CNN
Medical and hospital staff carry an injured man out of a car for treatment after two blasts, which killed at least five and wounded a dozen, outside the airport in Kabul on August 26, 2021. (Photo by Wakil KOHSAR / AFP)
an ISIS-K commander said the group was biding their time before deadly attack

In an interview two weeks before the deadly attack outside the gates of Kabul airport an ISIS-K commander said the group was biding its time before suicide bast. 

A senior ISIS-K commander whose identity was shielded told CNN chief international correspondent Clarissa Ward that the terrorist group was 'laying low and waiting for a time to strike.' 

The interview, which aired Friday, took place two weeks before Thursday's deadly ISIS-K attack that killed 13 US troops and scores of Afghan civilians after a suicide bomber slipped past a Taliban checkpoint to get close to an evacuee screening point at the Kabul airport. 

The Islamic State quickly claimed responsibility for the massacre, alleging a suicide bomber got 'within five meters' of US troops before detonating a device. 

On Friday the Pentagon confirmed that the deadly attack was carried out by a single suicide bomber at the Abbey Gate of Hamid Karzai International Airport and that there was no second explosion at the nearby Baron Hotel, Reuters reported.

The interview was conducted in Kabul days before the Taliban took control of Afghanistan. 

The senior commander said he defected from the Taliban because they did not implement Sharia Law strictly enough and because they were under the influence of other people.  

'We were operating in Taliban's ranks. However, these people were not aligned with us in terms of belief, so we went to ISIS,' he told Ward.

Ward asked the commander if he has carried out public executions or suicide bombings 

'Yes I have too many memories where I was present myself at these scenes,' he said. 'One memory is that the Pakistani Taliban had come to the Nazari district and during the fighting we captured five people. Our fighters became over excited and struck them with axes.' 

He said that his group has faced off with U.S special  forces in the past 'on many occasions.' 

'We had close combat with them, too,' he said. 'We have faced them a lot in fire fights,' he said. 

When Ward asked if the group was interested in carrying out international attacks he said he only could speak of attacks in Afghanistan.

The commander told Ward now that U.S. and international forces were leaving the country and the Taliban, at that point, was poised to be in control, that ISIS-K was in the process of recruiting members and 'restart operations' which presumably resumed on August 26.

The bombing claimed the lives of Navy corpsman Max Soviak, Army Staff Sergeant Ryan Knauss, and Marines Hunter Lopez, Rylee McCollum, David Lee Espinoza, Kareem Nikoui, Jared Schmitz, Daegan Page, Taylor Hoover, Humberto Sanchez, Johanny Rosario, Dylan Merola and Nicole Gee.

The remains of the 13 US troops killed in an ISIS-K suicide blast are currently en route to Dover Air Force Base for dignified transfer, according to the Pentagon.

In a statement on Saturday, Biden said: 'The 13 service members that we lost were heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice in service of our highest American ideals and while saving the lives of others.' 

'Their bravery and selflessness has enabled more than 117,000 people at risk to reach safety thus far. May God protect our troops and all those standing watch in these dangerous days,' the president added.

As the August 31 deadline to withdraw all U.S. armed forces from Afghanistan nears, Biden warned that an imminent terrorist attack in Kabul was 'highly likely' in a statement released Saturday afternoon.

The warning comes a day after the Pentagon confirmed it's first strike against ISIS-K. 

'The situation on the ground continues to be extremely dangerous, and the threat of terrorist attacks on the airport remains high,' Biden said in the statement. 'Our commanders informed me that an attack is highly likely in the next 24-36 hours. 

'I directed them to take every possible measure to prioritize force protection, and ensured that they have all the authorities, resources and plans to protect our men and women on the ground,' Biden added. 'They assured me that they did, and that they could take these measures while completing the mission and safely retrograding our personnel.'  

On Saturday the State Department said at least 5,400 Americans have been safely evacuated since August 14, including nearly 300 U.S. citizens within the last day. 

Currently approximately 350 Americans who remain in Afghanistan informed the State Department they want to leave the country while the State Department has been in contact with another 280 self-identified Americans who have not shared their plans to leave the country or said they intend to stay.

This article has been adapted from its original source.

© Associated Newspapers Ltd.

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