Suspect the US made a fatal mistake in Kabul

AfghanistanThe US air strikes on cars suspected of being about to bomb Kabul airport on August 29, but many data show that this was a mistake that left 10 civilians unjustly killed.

US officials said an MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) tracked the car for several hours before opening fire to destroy the target on August 29. It was the last publicized missile strike in Washington’s 20-year war in Afghanistan.

The US military called it “the right strike”, launched after hours of surveillance against a car suspected of carrying explosives and controlled by a self-proclaimed Islamic State suicide bomber. posed an immediate threat to American troops at Hamid Karzai International Airport in the Afghan capital, Kabul.

Suspect the US made a fatal mistake in Kabul

The scene of the airstrike and security camera footage showing Ahmadi’s activities on August 29. Video: New York Times.

However, images from security cameras and witness statements suggest that it is likely that the US military launched a blow without knowing the target, leading to the deaths of 10 innocent civilians.

US military officials said they did not identify the driver when the drone opened fire, but assessed the man as suspicious when he arrived at an IS facility and loaded what is believed to be explosives. .

Sheet New York Times said the driver was Zemari Ahmadi, a longtime employee of the nutrition and Education International (NEI) relief organization based in the US. The evidence collected by the newspaper showed that his trip on August 29 consisted only of transporting colleagues to work, while the “explosives” detected by the US UAV were more likely to be water tanks. Ahmadi loaded it into the car to take it home.

The US Department of Defense claimed that the air strike killed three civilians, when in fact the number was 10 people, including 7 children.

Zemari Ahmadi has worked as an electrical engineer for NEI since 2006. Relatives said Ahmani left at 9 a.m. in a 1996 NEI sedan from a house in Kwaja Burga a few kilometers from Kabul airport.

The US official said the drone began tracking the target around this time, after it left the compound believed to be an ISIS hideout near the airport.

It’s not clear which stops US officials were referring to on Ahmadi’s journey, where he picked up two colleagues and picked up a laptop before heading to the NEI office. The NEI director’s home in Afghanistan was located near where IS launched rockets at Kabul airport a day later, in which the militants used a launcher mounted on a sedan of the same model as the one driven by Ahmadi.

“We have lived here for 40 years, have nothing to do with IS or terrorism. We love America,” this person said.

The MQ-9 jet followed Ahmadi’s car as he drove around Kabul. The US official claimed to have intercepted communications between the vehicle and the IS hideout. Still, those traveling in the car with Ahmadi said the suspected moves were just an ordinary day at work for him.

After stopping to buy breakfast, Ahmadi and two colleagues arrived at NEI’s office at 9:35 a.m. Late in the morning, he drove some colleagues to the Taliban-controlled police station in central Kabul to ask for permission to distribute food to refugees in a nearby park. Ahmadi drove back to the office at 14:00 on the same day.

Half an hour later, Ahmadi went out with the faucet and filled several plastic containers. Colleagues say the water supply to his compound stopped working after the Afghan government collapsed, forcing Ahmadi to bring water home from his office. “I poured water into the bucket and helped him put it on the car,” said a building guard.

Ahmadi family members next to the car destroyed in the air strike on August 29.  Photo: AFP.

Ahmadi family members next to the car destroyed in the air strike on August 29. Photo: AFP.

At 15:38, the car was moved from the parking position. Video from the security camera was cut off not long after, when the office turned off the generator after the workday. Ahmadi and three colleagues made their way home.

The US official said the drone tracked the target in a compound 8-12 km southwest of the airport, a location that coincided with the NEI office. They added that the UAV crew detected suspicious objects loading heavy loads onto the vehicle, assuming they contained explosives.

Passengers confirmed that the car only had laptops and water tanks that Ahmadi had brought up earlier. They denied that the car was carrying explosives.

The journey home was still filled with laughter and jokes among colleagues, the only difference being that Ahmadi didn’t turn on the music for fear of being harassed by the Taliban. He departed for home after all three passengers disembarked. “I asked him to come in for a while, but Ahmadi said he was tired,” said the last person to leave the car.

US military officials admitted at the time that they still did not know Ahmadi’s identity, but believed the white sedan was an immediate threat to troops at Kabul airport. When Ahmadi brought the car into the yard, the commander of the UAV crew ordered an air strike. The plane launched Hellfire missiles at the target at 16:50.

The target was in a densely populated area, but the drone crew looked around and saw only one man greeting the vehicle. “They’re fairly certain” that the strike would not cause casualties among women, children, and non-combatants,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The US drone strike comes a few days after a suicide bomber of the Islamic State Khorasan, the Islamic State affiliate in Afghanistan, carried out an attack on US troops at Kabul airport on Friday. 8. 170 people died in the attack, including 13 US soldiers and at least 28 Taliban fighters.

“We are aware of reports of civilian casualties following the attack on a vehicle in Kabul. It is unclear what may have happened and we are investigating further. We would be deeply saddened if it happened. the possibility of innocent people being killed,” Colonel Bill Urban, a spokesman for the US Army’s Central Command (CENTCOM), said in a statement after the strike.

Vu Anh (Follow New York Times)

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