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Friday, March 31, 2023

US Strikes IS Target in Afghanistan

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The US conducted a drone strike against an Islamic State target in Afghanistan on Saturday, as the airlift of those desperate to flee moved into a fraught final stage with fresh terror attack warnings and encroaching Taliban forces primed to take over Kabul airport.

US forces overseeing the evacuation have been forced into closer security cooperation with the Taliban to prevent any repeat of a suicide bombing that killed scores of civilians crowded around one of the airport’s main access gates and 13 American troops.

The attack was claimed by a regional chapter of Islamic State, and the Pentagon announced it had carried out a drone attack on a “planner” from the jihadist group in eastern Afghanistan.

“Initial indications are that we killed the target,” said Captain Bill Urban of the Central Command.

With the airlift window narrowing sharply ahead of an August 31 deadline, more than 5,000 people remain inside Kabul airport awaiting evacuation, and thousands more continue to throng the perimeter gates pleading for entry.

The carnage of Thursday’s suicide attack only injected further stress and tension into a situation already fraught with panic and despair for those wanting to leave and high risk for the US forces tasked with securing the operation.

The attack followed a chorus of warnings about an imminent threat and, as crowds gathered outside the airport Saturday, the United States issued a fresh alert for US citizens to leave the areas around the main gates “immediately”.

The warning came just hours after the Pentagon said the evacuation operation continued to face “specific, credible” threats.

“We certainly are prepared and would expect future attempts, absolutely,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters.

The Pentagon clarified that there was one explosion Thursday, not two as previously believed.

At the White House, President Joe Biden’s press secretary Jen Psaki said US national security experts consider another attack is “likely” and the next few days will be “the most dangerous period to date”.

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