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U.S. conducts Afghan drone strike against IS-K planners, facilitators

"This strike was not the last," President Joe Biden said.

U.S. conducts Afghan drone strike against IS-K planners, facilitators
A wounded man is cared for after deadly explosions went off outside of the airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Thursday. Photo by Mujtaba Timoor/UPI | License Photo

Aug. 28 (UPI) -- The U.S. military conducted a drone strike against Islamic State-Khorasan Province planners and facilitators to retaliate for Thursday's attack, which killed some 170 people.

The "over-the-horizon counterterrorism operation" against the IS-K planner was carried out Friday night in the Nangarhar province of Afghanistan, Capt. Bill Urban, a U.S. Central Command spokesman, said in a statement.

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"Initial indications are that we killed the target," Urban said in the statement. "We know of no civilian casualties."

In a Pentagon briefing update Saturday, Maj. Gen. William Taylor said two "high-profile" IS-K targets were killed in the operation, another was injured and there were no civilian casualties.

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The two killed were "planners and facilitators," Pentagon press secretary John Kirby, who would not release their names, said.

The drone strike comes a day after U.S. President Joe Biden pledged to retaliate against the IS-K for a suicide attack near Hamid Karzai International Airport Thursday that killed 13 U.S. service members and dozens of Afghan civilians. The militant group claimed responsibility for the blast.

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Biden said he was briefed by his national security team on the strikes Saturday.

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"This strike was not the last," he said. "We will continue to hunt down any person involved in that heinous attack and make them pay."

A defense official told CNN a drone strike target who was killed was believed to be "associated with potential future attacks at the airport."

The drone strike also comes amid the last stretch of effort of from the United States and other Western countries to evacuate their citizens and Afghan allies by Tuesday after the Taliban seized control of the country's capital earlier this month.

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"We are still planning on ending this mission at the end of the month," Kirby told reporters Friday regarding the 20-year war in Afghanistan.

Kirby added Saturday that "withdrawal of the 5,000 troops from the airport has started."

Biden said the security threat at the airport continues to be high.

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"Our commanders informed me that an attack is highly likely in the next 24-36 hours. I directed them to take every possible measure to prioritize force protection, and ensured that they have all the authorities, resources and plans to protect our men and women on the ground," he said.

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On Saturday, Britain ended evacuations of citizens from the Kabul airport, Nick Carter, chief of the defense staff, told the BBC's Radio 4.

French officials said Friday they had also ended such evacuations, The New York Times reported.

On Friday, U.S. officials said there was also a controlled detonation by U.S. forces to destroy Eagle Base, the final Central Intelligence Agency outpost outside the Kabul airport, to make sure any equipment or information left behind would not fall into the hands of the Taliban, according to the Times.

Since Aug. 14, the United States has evacuated and facilitated the evacuation of approximately 111,900 people, according to the White House. On Friday, the military evacuated about 6,800 people on 32 U.S. military flights and 34 coalition flights.

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