The final known American drone strike in Afghanistan killed a humanitarian aid worker and his family, not a would-be ISIS bomber as military officials have claimed, according to a New York Times investigation.
Days after an alleged ISIS-K suicide bomber killed 13 military members and more than 100 Afghans at the airport in Kabul, the military launched a drone strike in a residential neighborhood that took out a vehicle the military said contained a likely explosive and was headed to the airport. When news reports revealed that 10 civilians, mostly children, were killed in the strike, the military blamed a secondary explosion that it claimed was evidence that the vehicle was laden with explosives.
But the Times and the Washington Post independently found that the military’s account appears to be false.
Military targeted aid worker:
The man targeted in the strike was Zemari Ahmadi, a longtime worker for Nutrition and Education International, a California-based aid group, who spent his day transporting colleagues and trying to help Afghans impacted by the war.
US officials first targeted his car for surveillance after he left his family’s home near the airport, which the military claimed was near an alleged ISIS safe house. Ahmadi picked up several co-workers and a laptop, including at the home of the group’s director, which was near the alleged ISIS safe house.
A military drone tracked Ahmadi throughout the day as he traveled with his co-workers and working.
At one point, Ahmadi and a guard filled up plastic containers with water and loaded them into his vehicle after water deliveries stopped following the collapse of the government.
Video surveillance footage and interviews with his co-workers corroborated the events.
Drone killed Ahmadi’s family:
US officials told the Times that Ahmadi and three others were seen loading heavy packages into the car, which may have been explosives.
Ahmadi dropped off three passengers and then drove home.
When he pulled into his driveway, which officials acknowledged was a different location than the alleged ISIS safehouse, they fired a drone strike.
US officials say the drone operator determined that there was only a single adult male and no visible civilians that would be hit but relatives say Ahmadi’s children and his brother’s children came out and sat in the car while he backed in.
The drone strike killed Ahmadi and nine others, including seven children.
The military has maintained that the family was killed by a secondary explosion but experts scoured the scene and found no evidence of a secondary explosion.
“It seriously questions the credibility of the intelligence or technology utilized to determine this was a legitimate target,” Chris Cobb-Smith, a British Army veteran and security consultant, told the Times.
“All of them were innocent,” said Emal, Ahmadi’s brother. “You say he was ISIS, but he worked for the Americans.”