The Pentagon on Friday dismissed reports of a second explosion “at or near the Baron Hotel,” which is a short distance from the Abbey Gate in Kabul on Thursday.
Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby and Mj. Gen. Hank Taylor, the deputy director of the Joint Staff For Regional Operations, held a press briefing on Friday, providing information on the latest developments in Afghanistan following the deadly blasts outside Kabul’s airport that killed at least 170 people, including 13 US soldiers, with dozens of others wounded.
“We have a lot of additional detail to offer you about the attack yesterday at the Abbey gate. But, I can confirm for you that we did not believe that there was a second explosion at or near the Baron hotel. It was one suicide bomber,” said Taylor, dismissing the reports.
Underlining that information could be “misreported or garbled” in “very dynamic events” such as the latest deadly blasts in the Afghan capital, the US major general said the “second explosion” was “controlled detonations of equipment.”
He further noted that “there will be other equipment and material things that will not be brought back” to the US as the mission approaches the end of August.
“We want to prioritize passenger seats as much as possible, so you’re going to continue to see things disposed of in a responsible way as we get closer to the end of the mission,” he added.
Taylor also stressed that evacuations were ongoing despite the events on Thursday, as he said a total of 12,500 evacuees are “now safely out of Afghanistan in a 24-hour period.”
“In the past 24 hours, more than 300 American citizens were evacuated from Afghanistan, bringing our updated total to approximately 5,100,” he said, adding that the total number of evacuees from the war-torn country had reached 110,000.
He said there were “approximately 5,400 individuals in the airport” waiting for a flight out of Afghanistan.
“We have the ability to include evacuees on US military airlift out of Afghanistan until the very end,” Taylor added.
While Taylor said the Daesh/ISIS terror group, believed to be behind the attack, “will not deter us from accomplishing” the evacuation mission, Kirby said the threat posed by ISIS “is real. And nobody wants to see that threat grow.”
For his part, Kirby affirmed that the Defense Department continues “to support the State Department in providing temporary housing sustainment and support inside the United States for a capacity of up to 50,000 Afghan special immigrant visa applicants, their families, and other at-risk individuals.”
The Taliban seized control of most of Afghanistan in recent lightning advances that captured Kabul on Aug. 15, forcing President Ashraf Ghani and other top officials to leave the country.
Compounding the already-escalating international crisis, two suicide bombers detonated bombs outside Kabul airport on Thursday.
ISIS-K has claimed responsibility for the attacks.