Following the death of more than 100 people (including 13 US troops) in bomb blasts inside Hamid Karzai international airport in Kabul, the US army conducted a drone strike to avenge the Islamic State’s regional terror group Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP). The United States had claimed to target a vehicle within a residential area, supposedly carrying ‘multiple’ ISKP suicide bombers.
However, an exclusive investigation by the New York Times (NYT) has now revealed that the drone attack killed an aid worker and his family instead of an ISKP terrorist. The deceased aid worker has been identified as 43-year-old Zemari Ahmadi. NYT reported that on August 29, the US drone strike killed Ahmadi and 9 of his family members (including 7 children) by ‘mistaking’ him for an ISKP terrorist. At that time, he was driving his 1996 Toyota Corolla car carrying water jugs, which the Pentagon apparently mistook for explosives.
The United States had maintained that only 3 civilians were killed in the drone attack, although the victim’s family had been burning the death of their 10 relatives. The strike was specifically targeted in the neighbourhood where Zemari Ahmadi lived with 3 of his brothers and their families. NYT found that Ahmadi used to work for a US aid group named Nutrition and Education International (NEI) and would bring filled water jugs in the car for his family.
While speaking about the matter, the deceased’s brother Emal told NYT, “All of them were innocent. You say he was ISIS, but he worked for the Americans.” Emal had also lost his 2-year-old daughter Malaka Ahmadi in the strike. He told the BBC that the family was being instructed by a US personnel about airport evacuation when the drone strike took place. On the fateful day of August 29, Zemari Ahmadi came under the surveillance of US officials after he left his home at around 9 am. He was tracked the whole day using an MQ-9 reaper drone.
Events leading upto the drone strike
The deceased aid worker had picked up 2 people in his 1996 Toyota Corolla car and had collected a laptop from the residence of the country director of Nutrition and Education International (NEI). The Pentagon claimed that it tracked Ahmadi leaving an ISKP safehouse. The New York Times visited the house of the director, who clarified that he had nothing to do with the ISKP. He conceded that he had his own refugee resettlement case pending in the US. Ahmadi had visited the office of NEI at 9:35 am and then visited a Taliban-controlled police station for permission to distribute food among displaced refugees.
After returning to the office around 2 pm, the deceased aid worker began filling up water jugs as the water supply was discontinued/cut off from his residential area. The office guard, an eyewitness to the event told the NYT that he helped Ahmadi fill up the jugs and load them in the trunk of the latter’s car. The two passengers, who had boarded Ahmadi’s car, turned out to be two of his co-workers. Unlike other times, the deceased did not play music or radio due to the fear of the Talibs. On returning home, Zemari Ahmadi was greeted by his children, nephews and nieces in the gated courtyard.
At this point, the operator of the MQ-9 reaper drone scanned the area quickly and somehow found only Ahmadi in vicinity of the car. Based on his assessment that there were no women or children, a drone strike was conducted on the victim’s car. NYT reported that the US drone strike not only killed 43-year-old Zemari Ahmadi but also his 3 children, namely, Farzad (10), Faisal (16) and Zamir (20). Besides, his cousin Naser (30), nephews Hayat (2), Benyamin (6), Arwin (7), Malika (3) and Somaya (3) were also killed.
Pentagon justifies drone strike, makes unfounded claims of ‘second blast’
The brother of the deceased aid worker, Romal and his wife, were inside the house at that point in time. Shocked by the sudden blast, they thought that the Talibs had attacked their house. It was only then that they discovered dismembered bodies of her family. However, the Pentagon justified the attack claiming it to be based on an intelligence assessment. According to Pentagon officials, a second blast took place after the drone strike.
They alleged that it was caused due to explosives in the car of Ahmadi. New York Times analysed the pictures from the scene and found no evidence of a second bomb blast. Had there been a second explosion, experts told NYT that the walls would have collapsed. However, there was only one minor dent on the security gate, implying only one shock wave. British Army veteran Chris Cobb Smith said, “It seriously questions the credibility of the intelligence or technology utilized to determine this was a legitimate target.”
Taliban had claimed that US drone strike targetted terrorists
Last month, CNN reported that a relative of the deceased told a local journalist that 9 civilians were killed from one single family. The Associated Press had also reported that a local Afghan official had said that three children had died. Hours after the reports of the rocket attack, the Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid said that a US airstrike targeted a terrorist who was going to attack the Kabul airport. The Taliban said that a drone strike by US forces targeted a suicide bomber in a vehicle who wanted to attack the Kabul international airport on Sunday. In a message to journalists, the Taliban spokesperson said that the vehicle was laden with explosives, but didn’t give any other detail.