Parents of the service members killed during the August 2021 suicide bombing at Hamid Karzai International Airport during the Afghanistan withdrawal are demanding that the Biden administration be held accountable after the Taliban killed the ISIS “mastermind” behind the attack.
A senior administration official told Fox News Digital on Tuesday that the ISIS-K terrorist who directed the suicide bombing at the Abbey Gate entrance of HKIA on Aug. 26, 2021 was killed in a “Taliban operation.”
The suicide bombing took the lives of 13 U.S. service members – 11 Marines, one Navy sailor and one Army soldier. Eighteen other U.S. service members were wounded. The bombing also left more than 150 civilians dead.
U.S. President Joe Biden speaks during a State of the Union address at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, US, on Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2023. (Photographer: Jacquelyn Martin/AP/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
Fox News Digital had previously reported that the suicide bomber had been a prisoner released from Bagram Air Base on Aug. 15, 2021, after the Taliban seized control of the facility.
Family members of the service members were notified this week of the Taliban’s operation, which killed the ISIS-K operative, but told Fox News Digital that they were not given the name of the individual or any further details.
“They told me the planner from ISIS had been taken out. They would not give me his name. They wouldn’t give me any details of the operation,” Darin Hoover, the father of Staff Sgt. Darin T. Hoover, 31, a U.S. Marine from Utah who was killed in the suicide bombing, told Fox News Digital.
While U.S. officials are touting that the terrorist has been taken off the battleground “regardless of who carried out the operation,” Hoover said the Biden administration needs to be held accountable.
“To me, it feels like it’s a victory lap for them, for the administration – that the Afghanistan debacle is over and done with, we’ve taken out the main planner, or the Taliban’s taken out the main planner, and this whole thing can be put behind us,” Darin Hoover told Fox News Digital. “Well, bullcrap. No, that doesn’t sit well with me.”
He added: “The administration needs to take accountability and responsibility for what happened.”
And Cheryl Rex, the mother of Marine Lance Cpl. Dylan Merola told Fox News Digital that she also “disagrees” with the characterization that the terrorist’s killing is “some kind of an accomplishment.”
Hoover and Rex also told Fox News Digital that President Biden “never called the families” after the suicide bombing in 2021, and instead, sent a letter.
“We all received the same letter in our mailboxes. It was the same letter to each of us—photocopied and stamped,” Hoover said. “No personal communication—nothing.”
“The State Department, the administration, the Pentagon, nobody has reached out to us,” he said.
“What happened to our kids should have never happened,” Rex told Fox News Digital. “The shock and the way we were treated after these kids, the military’s everyone in Afghanistan—they all deserve to be praised for saving lives—not pushed away.”
She added: “Those kids never got any acknowledgment at all.”
White House National Security Council strategic comunications coordinator John Kirby responded to the families’ concerns.
“Our hearts go out to those Gold Star families,” Kirby told Fox News Digital. “We share their grief and can only imagine the pain and heartbreak they have and continue to experience. Their loved ones were heroes who saved lives as part of the largest airlift evacuation operation in history.”
Kirby said the Biden administration “will continue to take action against terrorists, like we did when we took the global leader of ISIS and the leader of al-Qaeda.”
“President Biden has demonstrated he will continue to take all necessary steps to protect the United States from threats wherever they exist,” Kirby said.
Meanwhile, Rex described her son, who was killed during his first deployment, as someone who was “outgoing, loving” and who “would give everything to everybody.” Rex said he was raised “knowing family, country, and God.”
And Hoover described his son as “the anti-bully,” the “defender of the little guy.”
“He is one hell of a patriot and I can’t take that away from him,” Hoover said. “He was an amazing man and his legacy—that will never be taken away from him.”
A senior administration official could not disclose the name of the individual but told Fox News Digital that intelligence analysts and the U.S. government characterized the individual as “the mastermind of that awful attack” who “directed that awful attack.” The official said that the individual had still been engaged in efforts to “perpetrate violence” and had “remained a key ISIS-K figure.”
The official told Fox News Digital that they were not notified of the operation by the Taliban but rather learned of it through U.S. intelligence streams.
The official also said the United States did not conduct a joint operation with the Taliban.
“This was a Taliban operation,” the official said. “We view this operation as emblematic of a landscape in Afghanistan. It has become very challenging for terrorists, like ISIS-K, who might seek to engage in the type of external plotting that could harm Americans.”
The U.S. service members killed in the suicide bombing as they conducted the massive evacuation effort to save U.S. citizens and Afghan allies include:
Staff Sgt. Darin T. Hoover, 31, U.S. Marine from Utah; Lance Cpl. Dylan R. Merola, 20, a U.S. Marine from California; Sgt. Johanny Rosario Pichardo, 25, a U.S. Marine from Massachusetts; Sgt. Nicole L. Gee, 23, a U.S. Marine from California; Cpl. Hunter Lopez, 22, a U.S. Marine from California; Cpl. Daegan W. Page, 23, a U.S. Marine from Nebraska; Cpl. Humberto A. Sanchez, 22, a U.S. Marine from Indiana; Lance Cpl. David L. Espinoza, 20, a U.S. Marine from Texas; Lance Cpl. Jared Schmitz, 20, a U.S. Marine from Missouri; Lance Cpl. Rylee J. McCollum, 20, a U.S. Marine from Wyoming; Lance Cpl. Kareem Nikoui, 20, a U.S. Marine from California; Navy Hospital Corpsman Max Soviak, 22, a Navy corpsman from Ohio; and Staff Sgt. Ryan Knauss, 23, a U.S. Army soldier from Tennessee.