Sept. 27 (UPI) — The Taliban and the Islamic State have claimed responsibility for a rocket attack at the airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Wednesday — which militants say was an attempt to kill U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis.
Dozens of rockets were launched at the airport just hours after Mattis and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg arrived, unannounced, to meet with U.S. forces and Afghan officials.
“Missiles were fired on Kabul International Airport from Deh Sabz district, damaging the air force hangers and destroying one helicopter and damaging three other helicopters, but there were no casualties,” airport chief Yaqub Rassouli said.
The Taliban claimed credit and said the target was Mattis. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said the Pentagon chief was unharmed, as he had departed before the attack.
Shortly after, the Islamic State also claimed responsibility for the attack through its Amaq News Agency.
Officials immediately closed down the airport and Ghani said the government’s Crisis Response Unit was called in to check runways and clear out debris.
Mattis and Ghani later held a press conference after a closed-door meeting. Mattis noted that the attacks were a crime and that the Taliban had no respect for the people of Afghanistan. Stoltenberg said the attack was a sign of the Taliban’s weakness.
Last month, President Donald Trump announced plans to increase the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan.