U.S. Central Command said Sunday evening that a U.S. drone strike earlier in the day blew up a vehicle and "multiple suicide bombers" from Afghanistan's Islamic State affiliate and prevented an "imminent ISIS-K threat to" Kabul's international airport. The Hellfire missile hit at least one vehicle in a residential area about a mile from the airport, and a U.S. official told ABC News that two ISIS-K terrorists were seen loading what appeared to be explosives into the trunk of one of the targeted cars.
"We know that there were substantial and powerful subsequent explosions resulting from the destruction of the vehicle, indicating a large amount of explosive material inside that may have caused additional casualties," said Navy Capt. Bill Urban, a CENTCOM spokesman. "It is unclear what may have happened, and we are investigating further." He said the Pentagon is "aware of reports of civilian casualties following our strike on a vehicle in Kabul today," and "we would be deeply saddened by any potential loss of innocent life."
The drone strike or the secondary blast of explosives killed as many as nine people, including between three and six children, neighbors, family members, and Afghan health officials told journalists. A neighbor, Ahmaduddin, told The Associated Press that the missile strike set off explosions inside the house, and he had collected bodies of children afterward.
U.S. officials are in the final phase of evacuating Kabul's airport, and they describe the security situation as tense. The State Department said Sunday that about 250 Americans have said they are still trying to leave Afghanistan, and about 114,400 people, including nearly 5,500 American citizens, have been evacuated via the Kabul airport since Aug. 14.
As many as five missiles were fired at the airport early Monday local time, ABC News and Reuters report, but the U.S. military fired an anti-missile defense system to intercept the rockets, there are no sign of casualties, and flights are continuing to leave the airport.