ben sutphen bomb kabul airport eyewitness
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US Marine Major Ben Sutphen was 15 feet away trying to disperse the crowd when a suicide bomber detonated an explosion at the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul
US Marine Major Ben Sutphen gave the first eyewitness account of the suicide bomb explosion that killed 13 American service members and an estimated 170 Afghans at an entrance to Kabul airport last month.

Sutphen is one of 15 US service members who were wounded in the ISIS-K explosion at Hamid Karzai Airport on August 26. He was standing 15 feet away trying to disperse the crowd when the bomb detonated, and revealed that enemy gunmen opened fire on the crowd moments after the suicide bomb detonated.

Marine snipers were on the lookout for a suspected attack but were overwhelmed by the massive crowds at the Hamid Karzai International Airport.

Sutphen recounted how one marine corporal continued fighting through gruesome injuries. 'He's blown off his feet and still has his wits about him. Shot through the shoulder. Immediately recovers his weapon and puts the opposing gunmen down,' he said.

He also described the heroic actions of 'another corporal with substantial blast injuries to his lungs and internal organs' who had 'enough grit and courage at, at risk of his own life to drag another injured Marine out of harm's way.'


The Marines had been warned with what Sutphen described as 'the most direct indications of a threat at Abbey Gate' and shared the information with service personnel who were monitoring the gate.

It was serving as the only available entrance to the facility on the day of the deadly attack.

Gunmen opened fire from a nearby roof once the suicide bomber detonated his vest. Sutphen insisted that 'without a doubt, many more Marine and civilian lives would have been lost' if the Marines did not return the gunfire.

The attack happened 300 yards away from Abbey Gate, one of the main entrances to the airport. Marines had created a corridor between Abbey Gate and the Baron Hotel to allow British troops at the hotel to return to the airport.

But Sutphen said that he suspected it was 'nearly impossible' to identify the suspect in the 'very dense crowd' of thousands who were 'tightly packed, shoulder to shoulder chest to chest.'

'We brought a truck with a loudspeaker down to try to disperse the crowd. I was standing right by that truck when it happened,' Sutphen explained. He said that he was shielded by the truck.

Sutphen was the operations officer of his battalion and insisted that the Marines took every possible safety precaution on the day of the attack.

He explained that they had set up 'armed aerial surveillance overhead at the time' and 'had electronic countermeasures for improvised explosive device all along the corridor that would try to eliminate any electronically triggered device.'

The explosion was recorded as one of the deadliest days in Afghanistan over the last decade but Sutphen did not list anything that he believes should have been executed differently.

'The mission was evacuating people. We have to keep that road open. There was not a lot we could change about that situation. It was the mission, and we executed it.'

That day's evacuation mission was scheduled to be the last for the Marines as Abbey Gate was set to close that evening with Sutphen's battalion boarding flights home.

As one Marine who was killed in the suicide bombing outside the Kabul airport was laid to rest on Tuesday in Indiana, another victim was remembered at a wake in Massachusetts.

Marine Cpl. Humberto Sanchez, 22, and Marine Sgt. Johanny Rosario Pichardo, 25, were among the 13 United States service members who were killed.

According to Marine officials, Sanchez was originally assigned to work security at the United States embassy in Jordan, but had been transferred to help with the evacuation efforts in Afghanistan before the blast.

Pichardo, meanwhile, was screening women and children hoping to flee, when the bomb went off, killing the servicemembers and 169 Afghanis.

All 13 slain troops, who included 11 Marines, one Army staff sergeant, and one Navy corpsman, have been posthumously awarded Purple Hearts, the oldest US military award still given to American service members.

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