Pentagon Adjusts Account of Kabul Airport Attack

Investigation concludes that a single bomber was responsible
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 4, 2022 5:20 PM CST
Pentagon Adjusts Account of Kabul Airport Attack
An image from video released by the Department of Defense shows the explosion in the background, behind two Marines in the foreground, on Aug. 26, 2021, in Kabul.   (Department of Defense via AP)

(Newser) – The mass killing at the Kabul airport last August, as US forces were withdrawing from Afghanistan, was carried out by a single attacker, a Pentagon investigation has found. At least 170 Afghans and 13 American troops were killed in the blast. The Pentagon report says it was caused by one bomber who'd loaded a suicide vest with ball bearings, USA Today reports. Senior US commanders had said at the time that some people in the crowd had been shot by militants, per the New York Times, which the report contradicts. Nor did Marines fire into the crowd, the report said.

"The investigation found no definitive proof that anyone was ever hit or killed by gunfire, either US or Afghan," Gen. Kenneth McKenzie Jr., head of the Central Command, said Friday. A crowd had gathered at the airport's Abbey Gate of Afghans seeking to enter and US troops who were screening them. McKenzie acknowledged the change in accounts. "We now know that the explosively fired ball bearings that caused wounds that look like gunshots," he said. US and allied forces fired only warning shots, the report says.

The attacker's bomb held 20 pounds of military-grade explosives and 5mm ball bearings. In addition to those killed, 45 US troops were wounded, some of whom suffered traumatic brain injuries. The investigation found that US military leaders took appropriate steps to protect their troops, McKenzie said, and that medical personnel "saved every life they possibly could through heroic efforts." Investigators did not interview any Afghan witnesses, and with the US withdrawal complete, had to largely use drone footage to analyze what happened. (Read more Kabul stories.)

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