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Rockets fired at Kabul airport after US drone strike against potential Daesh threat

Smoke is seen billowing near Kabul airport after several rockets were heard flying over the Afghan capital, on August 30, 2021.

As many as five rockets have been fired at the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul after the United States conducted a drone strike allegedly targeting a potential planner with the Daesh terrorist group.

The rockets were launched early Monday morning local time. US officials said they were intercepted by the C-RAM missile defense system installed at the airport, according to CNN and Reuters.

People living near the airport reported hearing the sounds of the missile defense system being activated. It was not immediately clear whether the rockets were all brought down.

C-RAM is an automated system that detects incoming projectiles and destroys them before they can hit their target using a machine gun.

Local police have said that one child was killed in the rocket attack, without providing further details.

Afghanistan’s TOLO News reported that the rockets were fired from a car in Kabul’s Khair Khana neighborhood toward the airport and hit several parts of the city.

The security situation in and around the Kabul airport remains remarkably tense as thousands of desperate Afghans continue to throng the premieres in the hopes of catching the last flights out of Afghanistan as the US winds down its evacuation mission.

Confirming Monday's attack, the White House said in a statement that “the president was informed that operations continue uninterrupted at HKIA, and has reconfirmed his order that commanders redouble their efforts to prioritize doing whatever is necessary to protect our forces on the ground.”

US officials have warned that Daesh terrorists could launch further attacks on the airport as American troops scramble to fly remaining American citizens and Afghan allies out before the August 31 deadline.

There is increasing concern about suicide bombers and car bombs attacking the airport after a suicide bombing on Thursday killed 13 US service members and more than 170 Afghan civilians.

President Joe Biden said Saturday that US military chiefs had told him another terrorist attack was highly likely within the next 24-36 hours.

The US Central Command confirmed earlier that an airstrike was carried out Sunday night in Kabul against an explosives-laden vehicle, eliminating a potential Daesh threat to the airport.

Nine members of one family -- including six children -- were killed in the drone strike, a relative of the victims told a local journalist working with CNN.

Captain Bill Urban, a Central Command spokesman, said in a statement that investigations were being conducted and that “we are aware of reports of civilian casualties following our strike on a vehicle in Kabul today.”

Permission to leave Afghanistan

A joint statement issued Saturday by the US, the UK, and other countries said the Taliban would allow all foreign nationals and Afghan citizens, who hold travel authorization from another country, to leave Afghanistan freely.

“We have received assurances from the Taliban that all foreign nationals and any Afghan citizen with travel authorization from our countries will be allowed to proceed in a safe and orderly manner to points of departure and travel outside the country,” the statement said.

The 100-nation group, which also included European Union and NATO members, pledged in the statement that they would continue to issue travel documents to “designated Afghans,” adding that “we have the clear expectation of and commitment from the Taliban that they can travel to our respective countries.”

No 'safe zone' in Afghanistan

Separately, the Taliban dismissed the notion of a so-called safe zone in Afghanistan after French President Emmanuel Macron said that upcoming talks between Paris and London would center on the creation of a UN-controlled “safe zone” in the country.

“Afghanistan is an independent country. Could such a zone be created in France or the United Kingdom?" said Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen.

However, he added that the Taliban supported the idea of reaching an agreement with "some countries" such as Turkey to operate the international airport in Kabul.

The Kabul international airport has been the scene of chaos and deadly violence over the past two weeks as hundreds of thousands of desperate Afghans have crowded the perimeters to be evacuated from the war-torn country.

US airstrikes violate Doha agreement 

The Taliban condemned the Sunday drone strike by the United States as illegal.  

“It is illegal to carry out arbitrary attacks in other countries. If there was any potential threat, the US should have reported it to us, rather than conduct an arbitrary attack that has resulted in civilian casualties,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said on Monday.

Earlier, Abdulhaq Wasiq, a member of the Taliban's political office, said the US airstrikes were a violation of the Doha agreement, which the militant group negotiated with Washington early last year.

“We have signed an agreement with Americans in Doha regarding this and the attack is against the agreement. Based on the agreement, they are not allowed to interfere in Afghanistan affairs after their withdrawal.”

The Taliban captured Kabul and ousted the government of the now runaway president Ashraf Ghani on August 15 following a military blitz that put them in control of almost all provincial capitals with little or no resistance from government troops.

The militants are poised to run Afghanistan again 20 years after they were removed from power by American forces following the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.

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