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The man targeted in the drone strike 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.

US and other Western countries have been racing to evacuate their citizens and Afghan allies ahead of an August 31 deadline, after the Taliban retook control of the country — prompting fears of deadly reprisals against anyone linked to international forces.

Those efforts, hampered by fears of further security threats at the airport, now appear to be in their closing stages.

The last UK military flight dedicated to civilian evacuees has now left Kabul airport, a UK defense source told CNN. A small number of civilians may make it on to remaining UK flights, the source added.

Earlier Saturday the head of the UK’s armed forces, Gen. Nick Carter, told BBC Radio 4 that the UK’s effort to evacuate Afghan civilians would end “during the course” of Saturday. “And then it will be necessary to bring our troops out on the remaining aircraft,” he said.

UK Ambassador to Afghanistan Laurie Bristow, said in a video from Kabul posted to Twitter that Britain “hasn’t forgotten the people who still need to leave” Afghanistan and would “continue to do everything we can to help them.”

Carter said the number left behind who were eligible to be brought to the UK was in the “high hundreds.”

“It’s gone as well as it could do in the circumstances… but we haven’t been able to bring everybody out and that has been heartbreaking and there have been some very challenging judgments that have had to be made on the ground,” he said.

Several other allied nations concluded their evacuation operations on Friday, among them France and Italy.

Taliban Badri fighters, a "special forces" unit, stand guard as Afghans walk through the main entrance gate of Kabul airport on Saturday.

Minimal US diplomatic crew left

Meanwhile, it’s unclear how many Afghans remain at the airport desperate to find a flight out.

An eyewitness told CNN he saw Taliban members fire shots in the air outside the main Kabul airport entrance gate on Saturday morning to disperse crowds that had gathered again in attempts to flee Afghanistan.

A source directly familiar with the situation at Hamid Karzai International Airport told CNN that only a skeletal US diplomatic crew of staff to process evacuees would remain after the bulk expected to be departed in the next 24 hours.

The source said that some individuals or small families were still “being pulled through the gates somehow” as of Saturday. The gates have been closed for days. The numbers getting on were thought to be “a very tiny subset, consisting of single people or families.” The US has said they had alternate routes to the airport.

The source added that US airport staff were “still getting hit up by tons of people trying to get in. All Afghans, either SIV or no credentials. They feel bad but there is literally nothing they can do.”

SIV refers to the Special Immigrant Visa program established more than a decade ago to provide a pathway to the United States for Afghans who were employed by or worked on behalf of the US government.

The source added it was unclear if the evacuation of local embassy employees had finished, but that hundreds more had been reported as having got to the airport and that “hundreds more have departed for interim locations.”

The US Embassy in Kabul on Friday again warned US citizens at a number of gates at the city’s airport to “leave immediately,” citing security threats. The alert advised US citizens “to avoid traveling to the airport and to avoid airport gates.”

The Pentagon said the US was “still planning on ending this mission at the end of the month,” representing a final exit from a 20-year war in Afghanistan.

Relatives of a man who was killed in the Kabul airport bomb carry his body during his funeral on Martyrs Hill on the outskirts of the Afghan capital on Friday.

Targeted drone strike

Further details have emerged of the drone strike against what the US military described as an ISIS-K planner, although the identity of the target has not yet been confirmed.

An Afghan journalist who visited the scene of the drone strike said it destroyed a house close to Jalalabad in Nangarhar. 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.

A second US defense official said surveillance had 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 a statement Friday that it was not aware of any civilian casualties.

Biden approved the strike on the ISIS-K planner, according to an official familiar with the matter.

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

What to know about ISIS-K, the terror group claiming responsibility for the Kabul airport attack

Twenty US marines who were injured in the attack are being treated at the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, Ramstein Air Base Commander Brig. Gen. Joshua M. Olson said at a press conference Saturday.

The wounded and deceased service members were flown to Ramstein from Kabul on Friday, he said.

Evacuee numbers slowing

The US has evacuated and facilitated the evacuation of about 111,900 people from Afghanistan since August 14, according to the White House.

Kabul airport attack shows Afghanistan is still a terror hotbed that the Taliban will struggle to control

Approximately 6,800 people were evacuated from 3 a.m. ET Friday to 3 a.m. ET Saturday, a White House official said.

Those evacuations were carried out by both US military and coalition flights, with 32 US military flights taking approximately 4,000 people and 34 coalition flights carrying 2,800 people, the White House said.

The latest numbers are noticeably smaller than those from recent days, something White House press secretary Jen Psaki said should be expected in the final days of the mission.

“That is a result of the retrograde process that needs to take place, but also, I will note that, of course, force protection is front and center and is vital to the mission,” Psaki said at Friday’s White House press briefing.

Approximately 12,500 people were evacuated from Afghanistan during the same time period on the previous day.

Afghan refugees arrive at Dulles International Airport on Friday in Dulles, Virginia, after being evacuated from Kabul following the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan.

France announced the end of its evacuation effort Friday but vowed to “stand by the Afghan people” after August 31, in a statement released by Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly.

The country had evacuated nearly 3,000 people since August 15, the statement said. An extra 1,500 Afghans who had worked for France were evacuated before August 15 in anticipation of the current crisis, it added.

Italy’s Defense Ministry also said Friday that it had concluded its military evacuations of Afghan nationals out of Kabul. Since June, 5,011 people have been evacuated in total, of whom 4,980 are Afghan citizens, it said.

Australia, New Zealand, Sweden, Belgium, the Netherlands, Poland, Turkey and Spain have all said their evacuation missions ended or were scheduled to end on Friday.

CNN’s Jamie Crawford, Oren Liebermann, Sandi Sidhu, Niamh Kennedy, Atika Shubert, Saskya Vandoorne, Hada Messia and Duarte Mendonca contributed to this report.


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