The ISIS-K terrorist who directed the August 2021 suicide bombing that killed 13 U.S. service members during the Biden administration’s withdrawal from Afghanistan has been killed by the Taliban, a senior administration official told Fox News Digital.
The official said the Biden administration had “recently become aware” that the ISIS-K operative behind the suicide bombing at the Abbey Gate of Hamid Karzai International Airport on Aug. 26, 2021, was eliminated “in a Taliban operation.” The bombing took the lives of 11 Marines, one Navy sailor and one Army soldier. Eighteen other U.S. service members were wounded. The bombing also left more than 150 civilians dead.
Fox News Digital had previously reported that the suicide bomber had been a prisoner released from Bagram Air Base on Aug. 15, 2021, after the Taliban seized control of the facility.
U.S. Marines provide assistance at an evacuation control checkpoint during an evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, Aug. 21, 2021. (Department of Defense / U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Victor Mancilla)
The official could not disclose the name of the individual but told Fox News Digital that intelligence analysts and the U.S. government characterized the individual as “the mastermind of that awful attack” who “directed that awful attack.” The official said that the individual had still been engaged in efforts to “perpetrate violence” and had “remained a key ISIS-K figure.”
The official told Fox News Digital that they were not notified of the operation by the Taliban but rather learned of it through U.S. intelligence streams.
The official also said the United States did not conduct a joint operation with the Taliban.
“This was a Taliban operation,” the official said. “We view this operation as emblematic of a landscape in Afghanistan. It has become very challenging for terrorists, like ISIS-K, who might seek to engage in the type of external plotting that could harm Americans.”
Taliban fighters display their flag while on patrol in Kabul, Afghanistan, Aug. 19, 2021. (AP Photo / Rahmat Gul)
But the official told Fox News Digital that the Taliban’s operation “also reflects the president’s judgment that we did not need to remain on the ground in harm’s way in Afghanistan in perpetuity in order to effectively address any terrorist threats to us.”
“Regardless of who carried out the operation, the fact that this result was achieved, and this person who’s had American blood on his hands is himself no longer on the battlefield and able to perpetrate further violence, we think that is a development worth communicating to grieving families,” the official told Fox News Digital. “We think it’s a development worth conveying to the world. And we think it’s important, frankly, a development as the world continues to seek to degrade ISIS-K and any threat it might try to pose.”
But the father of Staff Sgt. Darin T. Hoover, 31, a U.S. Marine from Utah killed in the attack, who was notified by the government of the development Tuesday, said the Biden administration needs to be held accountable.
“To me, it feels like it’s a victory lap for them, for the administration – that the Afghanistan debacle is over and done with, we’ve taken out the main planner, or the Taliban’s taken out the main planner, and this whole thing can be put behind us,” Darin Hoover told Fox News Digital. “Well, bullcrap. No, that doesn’t sit well with me.”
Marine escorts civilians during processing through an evacuee control checkpoint at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan. (Department of Defense / File)
Defending the Biden administration’s strategy, the official said President Joe Biden maintains the sentiment that “those who killed and wounded our service members and others, or who continued to use Afghanistan as a base for external plotting, would face consequences.”
The official said Biden also “made a commitment” after the withdrawal that the United States “would never take our eye off of the terrorism threat that might emanate from Afghanistan and that we retain the capacity needed from over the horizon to address any potential threat to the homeland.”
“So, we’ve done that,” the official said. “We have rigorously monitored what has been happening in Afghanistan for the past many months.”
The official touted military operations under Biden’s direction that have taken out terrorists around the globe who have had “the ability to conduct attacks against the U.S. or our interests abroad from Afghanistan.”
The U.S. military killed a key ISIS facilitator, Bilal al-Sudani, and about 10 ISIS operatives in a counterterrorism mission that resulted in no U.S. casualties in January.
A commercial airplane is seen at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, Aug. 31, 2021. (Reuters / Stringer / File)
And in August 2022, the U.S. government killed the leader of al Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahri, in a counterterrorism operation in Afghanistan that removed the terrorist from the battlefield “once and for all” and degraded the terror network’s ability to operate.
Meanwhile, the Biden administration has been “very clear about our concerns about the Taliban’s human rights abuses,” the official said. “Two things can be true at the same time.”
The official said the Taliban has “been very public about its wide-ranging and quite intensive campaign against ISIS-K.”
“And ISIS-K has been feeling the effects of that campaign, including through high-profile leadership losses,” the official said.
“We have very grave concerns about the Taliban, and the outcome in an instance like this is helpful in the counter-ISIS-K pressure that we see being exercised,” the official said. “But we just wanted to give families, loved ones of those whose lives were lost in that airport attack two summers ago, to understand we thought we owed it to them to have that understanding,” the official said.
The official went on to tell Fox News Digital that the Biden administration has taken its fight to ISIS’s “broader global network around the world.”
“We’re working closely with our international partners, including through the global coalition, to defeat ISIS, to degrade ISIS-K and other parts of the ISIS global network,” the official said. “Bottom line: President Biden will continue to take all steps needed to protect the U.S. and its interests around the world from terrorist threats, wherever they might arise.”
The U.S. service members killed in the suicide bombing as they conducted the massive evacuation effort to save U.S. citizens and Afghan allies include:
Staff Sgt. Darin T. Hoover, 31, U.S. Marine from Utah; Sgt. Johanny Rosario Pichardo, 25, a U.S. Marine from Massachusetts; Sgt. Nicole L. Gee, 23, a U.S. Marine from California; Cpl. Hunter Lopez, 22, a U.S. Marine from California; Cpl. Daegan W. Page, 23, a U.S. Marine from Nebraska; Cpl. Humberto A. Sanchez, 22, a U.S. Marine from Indiana; Lance Cpl. David L. Espinoza, 20, a U.S. Marine from Texas; Lance Cpl. Jared Schmitz, 20, a U.S. Marine from Missouri; Lance Cpl. Rylee J. McCollum, 20, a U.S. Marine from Wyoming; Lance Cpl. Dylan R. Merola, 20, a U.S. Marine from California; Lance Cpl. Kareem Nikoui, 20, a U.S. Marine from California; Navy Hospital Corpsman Max Soviak, 22, a Navy corpsman from Ohio; and Staff Sgt. Ryan Knauss, 23, a U.S. Army soldier from Tennessee.