CNN Pushes Back at Pentagon Account of Kabul Airport Attack

Outlet says new evidence turns over narrative of a lone suicide bomber in Afghanistan
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 24, 2024 9:35 AM CDT
Conflicting Accounts Emerge on 2021 Kabul Airport Attack
This image from video released by the Department of Defense shows US Marines at Abbey Gate before a suicide bomber struck outside Hamid Karzai International Airport on Aug. 26, 2021, in Kabul, Afghanistan.   (Department of Defense via AP, File)

Few claim that the US withdrawal from Afghanistan almost three years ago went smoothly. Now, conflicting accounts of the war's final days are emerging that puts the Pentagon's narrative at odds with others.

  • Bombing: In the late afternoon of Aug. 26, 2021, a blast brought about by an ISIS-K suicide bomber at Hamid Karzai International Airport's Abbey Gate in Kabul caused chaos as Afghans tried to flee the nation amid the Taliban's takeover, killing about 170 Afghans, as well as 13 US service members. Scores of others were wounded.

  • Report no. 1: Earlier this month, a military review found that surviving US Marines who thought they'd seen the suicide bomber hours before the explosion and lamented that they could've taken him out were mistaken, per various media reports. Those troops said they saw a "bald man in black" responsible for the bombing, but the new DOD analysis finds that person wasn't the bomber and that the attack wasn't preventable.
  • Report no. 2: On Wednesday, CNN published a new bombshell, reporting that video evidence has emerged refuting the Pentagon's insistence that a lone suicide bomber caused the injuries and fatalities that day. Some troops had said they were also being shot at near the blast site, but the DOD has claimed those service members were likely just confused in the post-explosion chaos.
  • DOD's take: The Pentagon has so far acknowledged only that there was gunfire from US and UK troops, fired in three nearly simultaneous bursts as both warning shots and then as real shots fired at suspected militants. The military agency claims all deaths and injuries were from the explosion and the ball bearings it fired into the masses.
  • Video: A Marine's GoPro footage "shows there was far more gunfire than the Pentagon has ever admitted," per the CNN report. The video "shows 11 episodes of shooting after the explosion, over nearly four minutes"—much longer and more intense than the DOD's description. In response to CNN, the Pentagon didn't say how much of the full video it had seen, but a spokesman noted that, as of now, it was sticking to its original assessment of "no new evidence of a complex attack."
  • Interviews: An Afghan doctor who was on the scene tells CNN that he yanked bullets out of the wounded and saw dozens of Afghans die with bullet wounds. Then there are US soldiers who tell CNN they did indeed encounter enemy shooting. "It wasn't onesies and twosies," one Marine notes. "It was a mass volume of gunfire."
Much more here, including analysis of audio and video evidence by forensics experts. (More Afghanistan stories.)

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