US to conduct new interviews on deadly Kabul bombing

US to conduct new interviews on deadly Kabul bombing


The bombing targeted crowds of people who were desperate to get on a flight out of the country

WASHINGTON (AFP) – The United States has said it will interview more witnesses of a suicide bombing that killed scores of people – among them 13 US troops – during the withdrawal from Afghanistan.

A US investigation concluded that the August 26, 2021 Abbey Gate bombing in Kabul could not have been prevented, but Republican lawmakers have piled pressure on President Joe Biden's administration over both the attack and the chaotic nature of the end of America's longest war.

The bombing targeted crowds of people on the perimeter of Kabul airport who were desperate to get on a flight out of the country as the Taliban took power. The blast killed more than 170 people including the US troops.

"Right now the team is planning on conducting 19 interviews and additional interviews if necessary," Central Command (CENTCOM) spokesman Michael Lawhorn told AFP.

The new interviews are being done because a review of public testimony found that ex-Marine sergeant Tyler Vargas-Andrews -- who was wounded in the bombing and testified to lawmakers about his ordeal -- had made statements containing information "not previously shared by any other witness," Lawhorn said.

The review "also identified additional service members wounded during the Abbey Gate attack who were not interviewed, due to their immediate medical evacuation in the aftermath of their attack," he said.

The aim of conducting additional interviews is to "ensure we do our due diligence with the new information that has come to light, that the relevant voices are fully heard and that we take those accounts and examine them seriously and thoroughly so the facts are clear," he added.

The Abbey Gate bombing was claimed by the Islamic State jihadist group, and the White House said earlier this year that the Taliban killed the mastermind of the attack.

The US withdrawal saw Taliban fighters sweep aside Western-trained Afghan forces in just weeks, forcing the last American troops to mount a desperate evacuation from Kabul's airport.

An unprecedented military airlift operation managed to get more than 120,000 people out of the country in a matter of days.

Biden has long defended his decision to leave Afghanistan, which critics have said helped cause the catastrophic collapse of Afghan forces and paved the way for the Taliban to return to power two decades after their first government was toppled by US forces.