US drone strike targeted ISIS-K planner believed to be 'associated with potential future attacks at the airport'

President Joe Biden speaks about the bombings at the Kabul airport that killed at least 12 U.S. service members, from the East Room of the White House, Thursday, Aug. 26, in Washington. - Evan Vucci/AP

Originally Published: 28 AUG 21 10:01 ET

Updated: 28 AUG 21 11:09 ET

By Barbara Starr and Paul LeBlanc, CNN

    (CNN) -- The ISIS-K planner targeted by a US drone strike in Afghanistan was believed to be "associated with potential future attacks at the airport," a US defense official told CNN Saturday.

The US located him and "had sufficient eyes on and sufficient knowledge" to strike, the official said, adding that he "was a known entity" but that the US is not calling him a "senior" ISIS-K operative.

The target was in a compound in the Jalalabad area, another defense official told CNN, and new intelligence following the terrorist attack that killed 13 US service members and at least 170 others outside Kabul's international airport was firmed up to give justification for the strike. The source said surveillance continued on the compound until the target's wife and children left before the US conducted the targeted drone strike.

US Central Command said in their statement Friday that they were not aware of any civilian casualties.

The announcement of the strike came a day after President Joe Biden vowed to retaliate for the terrorist attack in Kabul even as he said the frantic mission to airlift Americans from Afghanistan would continue. Biden approved the strike on the ISIS-K planner, according to an official familiar with the matter.

"We will not forgive. We will not forget. We will hunt you down and make you pay," the President said in remarks from the White House on Thursday.

The US, Biden said, "will respond with force and precision at our time, at the place we choose and the moment of our choosing. Here's what you need to know: These ISIS terrorists will not win."

An Afghan journalist who visited the scene of the drone strike said it destroyed a house close to Jalalabad in eastern Afghanistan. Photos shared with CNN by the journalist show a small vehicle at the compound badly damaged as well as what appears to be heavy shrapnel damage in the immediate vicinity.

ISIS in Khorasan, known as ISIS-K, has claimed that an ISIS militant carried out Thursday's suicide attack, but provided no evidence to support the claim. US officials have said the group was likely behind the bombing.

Biden and his team are now bracing for the possibility of another terrorist attack in the final days of the evacuation operation. The US Embassy in Kabul again on Friday advised US citizens at a number of gates at the airport to "leave immediately," citing security threats.

"Because of security threats at the Kabul airport, we continue to advise U.S. citizens to avoid traveling to the airport and to avoid airport gates," the alert said.

The-CNN-Wire
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