Taliban ‘kill mastermind’ of suicide bombing at Kabul airport

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The Taliban have reportedly killed the senior so-called Islamic State (Isis) group leader behind the August 2021 suicide bombing outside Kabul airport that left 13 US service members and about 170 Afghans dead.

Over the weekend, the US military began to inform families of the 11 marines, the sailor and the soldier killed in the blast at Abbey Gate during the chaotic US withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Those family members shared the information in a private group messaging chat, according to one Marine’s mother.

The account from the families was confirmed by three US officials and a senior congressional aide, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

US marines around the scene at Abbey Gate outside Hamid Karzai International Airport after a suicide bomber detonated an explosion
US marines around the scene at Abbey Gate outside Hamid Karzai International Airport after a suicide bomber detonated an explosion (Department of Defence/AP)

The Taliban at the time were not aware of the identity of the person they killed, the official added.

Darin Hoover, the father of Staff Sergeant Darin Taylor Hoover, said the marines provided only limited information to him on Tuesday and did not identify the Isis leader or give the circumstances of his death.

Mr Hoover is among a group of 12 Gold Star families that have kept in touch since the bombing, supporting one another and sharing information through the messaging chat.

The chat was created by Cheryl Rex, the mother of Marine Lance Corporal Dylan Merola, who died in the blast.

Ms Rex, who has been a vocal critic of US President Joe Biden’s administration’s handling of the withdrawal, said it was through the chat group they were informed about the killing late on Monday as they awaited official confirmation from US military officials.

The killing of the unidentified Isis leader, Mr Hoover said, does nothing to help them.

“Whatever happens, it’s not going to bring Taylor back and I understand that,” he said.

“About the only thing his mom and I can do now is be an advocate for him. All we want is the truth. And we’re not getting it. That’s the frustrating part.”

His son and the other fallen service members were among those screening the thousands of Afghans frantically trying on August 26 2021 to get on to one of the crowded flights out of the country after the Taliban takeover.

The scene of desperation quickly turned into one of horror when a suicide bomber attacked. Isis claimed responsibility.

The blast at Abbey Gate came hours after western officials warned of a major attack, urging people to leave the airport.

But that advice went largely unheeded by Afghans desperate to escape the country in the last few days of an American-led evacuation before the US officially ended its 20-year presence.

Staff Sergeant Darin T Hoover, 31, died in the bombing
Staff Sergeant Darin T Hoover, 31, died in the bombing (Carolyn Kaster/AP)

The group has continued to carry out attacks in Afghanistan since the Taliban takeover, especially against the country’s minority groups.

After former US president Donald Trump’s administration reached a 2020 deal with the Taliban to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan and Mr Biden’s administration followed through on that agreement in 2021, there had been hope in Washington that the Taliban’s desire for international recognition and assistance for the country’s impoverished population might moderate their behaviour.

But relations between the US and Taliban have deteriorated significantly since they imposed draconian new measures banning girls from school and excluding women from working for international aid and health agencies.

However, a line of communication still exists between the two sides, led by the US special envoy for Afghanistan Tom West.

Mr West’s contacts are primarily with Taliban officials in Kabul and not with the group’s more ideological wing based in Kandahar.

The August 2021 pullout of US troops led to the swift collapse of the Afghan government and military, which the US had supported for nearly two decades, and the return to power of the Taliban.

In the aftermath, Mr Biden directed that a broad review examine “every aspect of this from top to bottom” and it was released earlier this month.

US President Joe Biden
US President Joe Biden (Andrew Harnik/AP)

News of the killing came on the same day Mr Biden formally announced he will seek a second term as president, offering a reminder of one of the most difficult chapters of his presidency.

The disastrous drawdown was, at the time, the biggest crisis the relatively new administration had faced.

It left sharp questions about Mr Biden and his team’s competence and experience — the twin pillars central to his campaign for the White House.

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