In retaliation for an attack that killed 13 U.S. troops outside the Kabul airport, the U.S. killed an ISIS Khorasan planner in an unmanned aerial vehicle strike, U.S. Central Command announced late Friday.
“U.S. military forces conducted an over-the-horizon counterterrorism operation today against an ISIS-K planner,” CENTCOM spokesman Capt. Bill Urban said in a statement.
“The unmanned airstrike occurred in the Nangahar Province of Afghanistan. Initial indications are that we killed the target. We know of no civilian casualties.”
The strike comes hours after 20 service members who were wounded in the suicide bomb attack outside of the Kabul airport arrived at a U.S. military hospital in Germany.
“Two flights landed at Ramstein [Air Base] today carrying our worm wounded personnel from the attack. These personnel had been transferred to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, and are receiving care,” Army Maj. Gen. Hank Taylor told reporters on Friday.
The wounded were medically evacuated in two special-equipped C-17s with embarked surgical units to a U.S. Army hospital in Germany.
The attack, claimed by ISIS-K, killed 13 U.S. service members and up to 170 Afghans outside the Abbey gate of the Hamad Karzai International Airport on Thursday, as throngs of people were trying to get to the airport for evacuation flights.
Of the service members killed, 11 were Marines, one was a soldier and one was a sailor. The Marines amended a Thursday statement to add another Marine to the slain.
“We can confirm, at this time, 11 Marines were killed in the line of duty at Hamid Karzai International Airport,” Marine spokesman Maj. Jim Stenger said in a Friday statement.
On Friday, the Army issued a statement confirming a soldier was killed in the attack. The Navy confirmed a sailor had been killed in the explosion also on Friday. The identities of the remaining service members will be released a day after the last next of kin notification by the Office of the Secretary of Defense, defense officials told USNI News.
However, families have begun to identify those killed.
Maxton Soviak, 22, was identified by his family as the Navy hospital corpsman who was killed in the attack.
Soviak was from Ohio and a 2017 graduate of Edison High School, the local school district said in a Friday statement, and was a successful athlete.
“But he was most proud to be a Navy corpsman and a Devil Doc for the Marines,” his father Kip Soviak said in an email to The Wall Street Journal.
“His final words to my wife over FaceTime when he was telling her goodbye was—after she told him to be safe—and he said, ‘Don’t worry mom, my guys got me, they won’t let anything happen to me… Today she realized that they all just went together.’”
A Marine from California was identified in a statement from the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department as Cpl. Hunter Lopez, 22, assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines.
“He has been wanting to be a Marine since he was 10 years old and joined the Sheriff’s Explorer Post 14 at 14 years old. When his tour was over, Hunter wanted to continue to serve as a deputy with the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department. He wanted to be a SWAT officer. He was a badass Marine and a great brother and an awesome son,” the family said in a statement to NBC Palm Springs. Both parents work for the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department.
Family identified Ryles McCollum, 20, as one of the Marines killed in the attack. McCollum, from Bondurant, Wy., was on his first deployment with 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines, according to photos his family provided to the Casper Star Tribune.
“He wanted to be a Marine his whole life and carried around his rifle in his diapers and cowboy boots,” his sister, Roice McCollum, told the paper. “He was determined to be in infantry … Rylee wanted to be a history teacher and a wrestling coach when he finished serving his country. He’s a tough, kind, loving kid who made an impact on everyone he met. His jokes and wit brought so much joy.”
He was expecting a child in less than a month, his sister told the paper.
Daegan William-Tyeler Page
Family identified Cpl. Daegan Page, 23, from Omaha, Neb., as one of the Marines killed in the blast.
“Our beloved son, Corporal Daegan William-Tyeler Page, 23, was killed in Afghanistan yesterday. Daegan joined the U.S. Marine Corps after graduating from Millard South High School. He loved the brotherhood of the Marines and was proud to serve as a member of the 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif.,” reads a press statement from his family.
“Daegan always looked forward to coming home and hanging out with his family and many buddies in Nebraska. To his younger siblings, he was their favorite jungle gym and to his friends, he was a genuinely happy guy that you could always count on. After finishing his enlistment, Daegan planned to come home and go to a local trade school, possibly to become a lineman.”
Kareem Mae’Lee Grant Nikoui
Kareem Mae’Lee Grant Nikoui, 20, from Norco, Calif., was identified by his father as one of the Marines killed in the attack. According to images provided to the press by the family, he was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines and based in Camp Pendleton, Calif.
His father, Steve Nikoui, told The Daily Beast Kareen would often come home and bring Marines from his unit with him.
“My wife and I felt very honored that [since] these other boys weren’t around their homes, that we were able to provide some sort of family life for them,” he said. “He really loved that [Marine Corps] family. He was devoted—he was going to make a career out of this, and he wanted to go. No hesitation for him to be called to duty.”
Army Staff Sgt. Ryan Knauss, 23, was identified by his family as the soldier who was killed in the attack. He was from Knoxville, Tenn. He had recently completed psychological operations training and was assigned to the 1st Special Forces Command.
“We were led to think that it was 12 Marines and one Navy, and we knew our grandson was in the Army. So we were praying for the families of the Marines, not knowing our grandson was one of the ones who lost his life… You just don’t think it will be yours, I’m sure that you’ve heard that before,” his grandmother, Evelena Knauss, told The Daily Beast.
Lance Cpl. Jared Smith, 20, was from St. Louis, Mo., and was identified as one of the Marines who was killed in the blast by his father on KMOX local radio.
“This was something he always wanted to do, and I have never seen a young man train as hard as he did to be the best soldier he could be,” Schmitz said of his son. “His life meant so much more. I’m so incredibly devastated that I won’t be able to see the man that he was very quickly growing into becoming.”
Marine Staff Sgt. Taylor Hoover, 31, was from Utah, his father told The Associated Press.
“He is a hero. He gave his life protecting those that can’t protect themselves, doing what he loved serving his country,” said Darin Hoover. He said that Marines had been in touch throughout the day to share stories of his son.
“They look back on him and say that they’ve learned so much from him… One heck of a leader,” Hoover said.
David Lee Espinoza
Lance Cpl. David Lee Espinoza, 20, was from Laredo, Texas and was one of the Marines killed in the Kabul attack, his mother confirmed to the Laredo Morning Times.
“He was my hero,” Elizabeth Holguin, Espinoza’s mother, told the paper. “He was just brave enough to go do what he wanted and to help out people. That’s who he was, he was just perfect.”
The U.S. Marines sent 2,000 Marines who are trained in non-combatant evacuation operations from the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit based in Camp Lejuene, N.C., to HKAI. The Marines had deployed aboard the three-ship Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group earlier this year. Elements of the Marine Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force-Crisis Response-Central Command with elements from the 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines from Camp Pendelton, Calif., were sent to support operations at the airport. The Army dispatched soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division, based in Fort Bragg, N.C., to support security at the airport as well as unspecified special operations units.
Following the attack, the U.S. resumed flights from the airport, evacuating 12,500 from the airport, Pentagon officials said on Friday. The Pentagon is preparing to temporarily house up to 55,000 Special Immigrant Visa holders on military facilities throughout the U.S. after they leave Afghanistan.