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Taliban kill mastermind of Kabul airport bombing that killed 13 U.S. service members

The U.S. was not involved in the operation, the officials said, and is not relying on the Taliban for confirmation the ISIS-K operative was killed.
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The mastermind of the deadly August 2021 attack at Kabul International Airport, which claimed the lives of 13 U.S. service members and more than 150 Afghans seeking to flee the country, has been killed, according to three U.S. officials. 

The ISIS-K operative, whose name the officials would not provide, was killed by the Taliban in Afghanistan earlier this month, the officials said.

The U.S. was not involved in the operation, the officials said, and is not relying on the Taliban for confirmation that he was killed.

The U.S. has intelligence and other sources confirming his death, the officials said, adding that they are not providing the Taliban with operational information or intelligence. Other partners in the region do share information with the Taliban. 

TOPSHOT - A Taliban fighter stands guard at the site of the August 26 twin suicide bombs, which killed scores of people including 13 US troops, at Kabul airport on August 27, 2021.
A Taliban fighter stands guard on Aug. 27, 2021, at the site where two suicide bombs exploded, killing scores of people, including 13 U.S. troops, at Kabul airport.Wakil Kohsar / AFP via Getty Images file

On Tuesday evening, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said, “The ISIS-K terrorist who was the mastermind of the horrific attack at Abbey Gate that killed 13 brave American service members and many others has been removed from the battlefield. He was killed in a Taliban operation, which is another in a series of high-profile leadership losses ISIS-K has suffered this year."

"We have made clear to the Taliban that it is their responsibility to ensure that they give no safe haven to terrorists, whether al Qaeda or ISIS-K."

The families of the 13 U.S. service members killed in the airport attack were notified of the operative's death this week, most in a brief phone call from the military. The dead included 11 Marines, one Navy corpsman and one Army soldier. 

Staff Sergeant Darin "Taylor" Hoover was badly injured in the attack and later died.

Despite his wounds, he continued helping his fellow Marines, handing them ammunition and encouraging them to fight on. He was 31. 

His father, Darin Hoover, who was briefed about the ISIS-K operative’s death Tuesday, said he's frustrated by how little information the Pentagon and State Department have shared about the attack that day. 

FILE - Smoke rises from a deadly explosion outside the airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, Thursday, Aug. 26, 2021. Two suicide bombers and gunmen have targeted crowds massing near the Kabul airport, in the waning days of a massive airlift that has drawn thousands of people seeking to flee the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan. The Taliban have killed the senior Islamic State group leader behind the August 2021 bombing outside the Kabul airport that killed 13 service members and about 170 Afghans. That is according to the father of a Marine killed in the attack who was briefed on April 25, 2023, by military officials.
Smoke rises from a deadly explosion outside the airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, in 2021.Wali Sabawoon / AP file

“We only get piecemeal stuff from them and it just doesn’t work for me,” he said. “How can you have the next generation coming up to defend this country if this is how they’re treated?”

Hoover said the Marine did not provide the name of the operative killed or any details about the operation beyond the fact that he was the individual responsible for the attack. 

Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, said this does not end the need for justice for the families of those killed. 

“If these reports are true, any time a terrorist is taken off the board is a good day. But this doesn’t diminish the Biden administration’s culpability for the failures that led to the attack at Abbey Gate, and will in no way deter the committee’s investigation," McCaul wrote in a statement. "I will not sleep until every stone is unturned and these Gold Star families have answers — and justice."

CORRECTION (April 25, 2023, 8:30 p.m. ET): A caption on a photo in a previous version of this article misstated when two bombs exploded at the Kabul airport. It was Aug. 26, 2021, not Aug. 27, 2021.