The Defense Department’s investigation into the attack that killed 13 U.S. service members and about 170 Afghans at the Abbey Gate at the Kabul airport in August found that “a single explosive device” was responsible, according to CENTCOM Commander General Kenneth McKenzie.
On Friday, the Pentagon released its report on the investigation into the suicide bombing at the Kabul airport in the chaotic last days of the U.S. evacuation from Afghanistan.
McKenzie told reporters at the Pentagon that the bombing was not, as previously thought, a complex attack, and no service members or Afghans were killed or wounded by gunshots. All injuries and deaths were caused by the blast. There was some consideration given to the possibility that the attack had included a gun fight, but the investigation found that injuries thought to have been caused by bullets were not.
“We now know that the explosively-fired ball bearings caused wounds that looked like gunshots,” McKenzie said. He added that the “disturbing lethality of the explosive device was confirmed by the 58 U.S. service members who were killed and wounded — despite the universal wear of body armor and helmets that did stop ball bearings that impacted them … but could not prevent catastrophic injuries to areas not covered.”
The Defense Department also showed video that is the only known footage of the blast. It portrays an individual dressed entirely in black, and the blast “seems to emanate from the individual,” said Army Brigadier General Lance Curtis, who led the investigation.
Another investigator, Lieutentant-Colonel John Naughton, pointed out to reporters that the area where the bomber struck was very densely crowded, and he showed them a photo that “gives you an idea of why there were so many casualties standing shoulder-to-shoulder, back-to-back.”
On August 26, as the massive operation to airlift of U.S. citizens and vulnerable Afghans was coming to an end, about 300 yards fromone of the main entrances to the airport, a suicide bomber detonated a bomb that killed 13 U.S. service members and over 170 Afghans.
This area was crowded since Abbey Gate was theon the day of the attack.
There were intelligence warnings of an imminent attack by the terrorist group ISIS-K, but Abbey Gate remained open so that British troops at a hotel nearby could return to the airport.
Extensive surveillance measures were in place to detect a potential threat, but military snipers were unable to identify the bomber hidden among the thousands who were crowded around the gate, hoping to board a flight out of Afghanistan.