The military has its signals crossed regarding an alleged hijacking attempt on one of the August evacuation flights out of Afghanistan.
After the Air Force on Tuesday said officials received an intelligence tip that five people on board one of the commercial airline flights “intended to hijack the aircraft," U.S. Central Command, which is responsible for the Middle East and large swaths of Asia, on Thursday told the Washington Examiner it was unaware of any such event, though it acknowledged there was intelligence that pointed to a possible plot.
“I am unaware of any attempt to hijack a plane at Hamid Karzai International Airport," a CENTCOM spokesperson said. "During the Afghanistan evacuation mission, an intel tip indicated the possibility of a plot to highjack a particular commercial flight that was preparing to depart the airfield."
"Ground traffic controllers diverted the plane to a safe location on the airfield where security forces boarded the plane and determined that there was no active attempt to hijack the aircraft," the spokesperson added.
The Air Force's statement did not provide additional details about when the incident took place or how it was resolved, though Lt. Col. Brian Desautels, 71st Rescue Squadron and Personnel Recovery Task Force commander said, "Our team worked to get them clear of the NATO ramp, relocated to the north side away from friendly forces, then ultimately onto the south side where the situation was handled."
The conflicting information underscores the chaotic nature of the noncombatant evacuation operation that was launched in mid-August to evacuate Americans and Afghan allies who could be in danger under the newly formed Taliban government, though thousands were left behind. More than 120,000 people were flown out of Afghanistan, but only a small percentage turned out to be allies, and more than 100 Americans were left behind.
As the evacuation efforts were ongoing, U.S. officials repeatedly warned about intelligence of a possible terror threat from ISIS-K, the Afghan affiliate of the Islamic State. Those fears became a reality when a suicide bomber, later identified as Abdul Rehman Loghri, a former prisoner who was released by the Taliban, detonated a device near Abbey Gate outside the airport.
Thirteen U.S. service members were killed in the bombing along with roughly 170 Afghan civilians, while 17 other service members were wounded.
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Original Author: Mike Brest