Several Afghans, including children, were killed in a drone strike in Afghanistan's Kabul on Sunday that the US said killed an Islamic State suicide car bomber suspected of preparing to attack the airport in the capital city, according to reports. CNN reported citing relatives and a local journalist that nine members of one family, including six children, were killed in the strike targeting a vehicle in a residential neighbourhood of Kabul. The youngest child was a two-year-old girl, the brother of one of the dead told a local journalist working with CNN.
"All the neighbours tried to help and brought water to put out the fire and I saw that there were five or six people dead. The father of the family and another young boy and there were two children. They were dead. They were in pieces. There were [also] two wounded," Ahad, who said he was a neighbour of the family, told CNN.
The Associated Press reported citing an unnamed Afghan official that three children were killed in the drone strike on Sunday.
After the CNN report, the United States said it is investigating whether civilians may have been killed in the airstrike and that it would be "deeply saddened by any potential loss of innocent life". "We are aware of reports of civilian casualties following our strike on a vehicle in Kabul today. We are still assessing the results of this strike, which we know disrupted an imminent ISIS-K threat to the airport," Captain Bill Urban, a Central Command (CENTCOM) spokesperson, said in a statement.
He was using an acronym for the Afghanistan branch of the Islamic State group, which carried out a suicide attack at the airport on Thursday.
"We know that there were substantial and powerful subsequent explosions resulting from the destruction of the vehicle, indicating a large amount of explosive material inside that may have caused additional casualties," Urban continued. "It is unclear what may have happened, and we are investigating further."
According to officials, a US drone strike blew up a vehicle carrying "multiple suicide bombers" from Afghanistan's Islamic State affiliate on Sunday before they could attack the ongoing military evacuation at Kabul's international airport. The strike was the second carried out by US forces in Afghanistan since an Islamic State suicide bomber struck the airport on Thursday, killing 13 US troops and scores of Afghan civilians trying to flee the country.
Two US military officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss military operations, called the airstrike successful and said the vehicle carried multiple bombers.
US navy Captain Bill Urban, a military spokesperson, said the strike was carried out in "self-defence" and that the military was investigating whether there were civilian casualties but that "we have no indications at this time."
"We are confident we successfully hit the target. Significant secondary explosions from the vehicle indicated the presence of a substantial amount of explosive material," Urban said.
Sunday's drone strike came just two days before the US is set to withdraw the last of its troops, ending America's longest war.
Meanwhile, the US state department said in a statement signed by around 100 countries, as well as Nato and the European Union, that they received "assurances" from the Taliban that people with travel documents would still be able to leave the country. The Taliban have said they will allow normal travel after the US withdrawal is completed on Tuesday and they assume control of the airport.
US President Joe Biden vowed to keep up the airstrikes, saying on Saturday that another attack was "highly likely" as the state department called the threat "specific" and "credible."
The Taliban have increased security around the airport after Thursday's attack, clearing away the large crowds that had gathered outside the gates hoping to join the airlift.
Tens of thousands of Afghans are trying to flee Afghanistan since the Taliban's rapid takeover earlier this month, fearing reprisals and a return to the harsh form of Islamic rule the group imposed by the group from 1996 to 2001.
The Taliban have pledged amnesty for all Afghans, even those who worked with the US and its allies. But many Afghans are sceptical about the assurances and there have been reports of executions and other human rights abuses in areas under the Taliban.