Two senior ISIS-K operatives plotting the massacre at the Kabul airport were killed in a US drone strike while riding a tuk-tuk, it has emerged.
The terrorists died instantly – and an employee was injured – in the revenge attack in the remote town of Jalalabad in Nangarhar province near the border with Pakistan, the US military said last night.
The men, who were described as ‘planners’, are said to have been sitting in the back of the moving tricycle when they were hit by a missile attack from an MQ-9 Reaper drone.
Two senior ISIS-K operatives plotting the massacre at Kabul airport were killed in a US drone strike while riding a tuk-tuk
Pentagon defense chiefs declined to release the names of the dead terrorists, but it is believed they were planning more attacks at the airport, where more than 170 people were killed in a suicide bombing last Thursday.
The attack on the airport was orchestrated by the leadership of the Islamic State in Khorasan Province (ISIS-K), the South Asian branch of the Islamic State terror group that declared the caliphate in Syria in June 2014.
According to terrorism experts, ISIS-K is much more brutal than IS in Syria or any of its affiliates. It has targeted maternity wards, schools and vulnerable minority groups in Afghanistan, killing thousands since its inception in 2015.
Photos of the burnt-out tuk-tuk surfaced on social media last night. It could be seen next to a crater at least four feet deep.
“It was a single mission to achieve these goals. They were ISIS-K planners and facilitators and that’s reason enough there alone. I will not go into the details of these individuals and what their specific role might be,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said last night.
Residents in Jalalabad said they heard at least three loud bangs at midnight on Saturday and added that others were also hit.
Major General William Taylor (pictured) said ‘two prominent ISIS targets were killed and one injured and we know there are zero civilian casualties’ in the Joe Biden-sanctioned attack in Nangahar Province
The men, who were described as ‘planners’, are said to have been sitting in the back of the moving tricycle when they were hit by a missile strike from an MQ-9 Reaper drone (pictured)
“Women and children are among the victims,” said Malik Adib, a city senior who is helping the Taliban investigate the attacks.
The drone strike was ordered after Joe Biden said there would be a swift response to the airport attack, which left 13 US soldiers dead. The president’s national security advisers warned him last night that further attacks could take place at the Kabul airport as the US completes its evacuation program before Tuesday’s deadline.
With thousands of Afghans still expected to flock to the airport in the coming days, it could provide perfect cover for another suicide bomber to get close to the US troops manning the gates.
Biden last night said further attacks against ISIS-K would be coming and warned the situation on the ground remains “extremely dangerous”.
He added: ‘This strike was not the last. We will continue to track down every person involved in that horrific attack and make them pay.
“Our commanders told me that an attack is very likely in the next 24 to 36 hours. I have instructed them to take all possible measures to prioritize force protection.”
ISIS-K was a largely spent fighting force until the Taliban recaptured most of Afghanistan.
Taliban fighters freed prisoners from Bagram prison and prisons in Kabul, unaware that dozens of dangerous ISIS-K members were being held there. Thousands of other members are said to have been released in other parts of the country.
Abdul Sayyaf, a terrorism expert on Afghanistan, said: “This is the most ruthless terrorist group I’ve seen in Afghanistan, and more ruthless than other IS groups.”
ISIS-K launched an attack on a maternity ward at a hospital in Kabul in May 2020, killing two babies and 15 mothers and nurses. Earlier this year, a car bomb at the Sayed al-Shuhada girls’ school in Kabul killed 90 people, most of them girls between the ages of 11 and 15.
The group has routinely bombed Shia mosques, as well as Hindu and Sikh minorities in Afghanistan.
Like IS in Syria, it is notorious for making horrific videos of enemies being killed. A video released in 2017 showed ten Taliban fighters to lie on a chain of explosives and then be blown to pieces.
A former ISIS-K detainee said the group left a dish of severed heads outside his prison cave and that their executioner used a special six-foot-long knife to decapitate victims.