Afghan family whose 10 loved ones were killed by drone strike after Pentagon blunder mistook aid worker for ISIS-K terrorist say they want compensation and resettlement in US or other safe country
- Zemari Ahmadi, 43, was an aid worker for a California based nonprofit who was his family’s only breadwinner before he was killed in the US drone strike
- Ahmadi’s step son Samim Ahmadi, 24, said: ‘Whether in America or another country, we want peace and comfort for our remaining years’
- Emal Ahmadi, 32, was just a few feet from his brother when the strike happened and said he was ‘happy’ the US acknowledged their miscalculations
- Family members said Ahmadi and his brother had applications processing for special visas to enter the U.S. because of their work with American companies.
- The surviving Ahmadi family said the Americans responsible for the tragic mistake need to be taken to court
- Ahmadi was killed along with seven children and two adult family members
Relatives of the Afghan family killed by the US drone strike that took the lives of an innocent aid worker and nine other people, including seven children, say they want compensation, and resettlement in the US or another safe country.
Zemari Ahmadi, 43, died in the blast and was his family’s only breadwinner. He worked for the US-based aid group Nutrition and Education International, and U.S. officials acknowledge he did not appear to be connected to ISIS-K terrorists. His fatal mistake, it appeared, was driving a white 1996 Toyota Corolla similar to one intelligence sources claimed was being driven by a known terrorist.
Ahmadi’s 24-year-old stepson Samim Ahmadi told The Washington Post that ‘the situation in Afghanistan is not good’. He added: ‘Whether in America or another country, we want peace and comfort for our remaining years.
‘Everyone makes mistakes. The Americans cannot bring back our loved ones, but they can take us out of here.’
Relatives of the Afghan family killed by the US drone strike that took the lives of an innocent aid worker and seven children want compensation and resettlement in the US or another safe country. Ahmadi’s brother Emal (pictured), 32, said: ‘We didn’t have any money to bury our relatives. We had to borrow funds’
Zemari Ahmadi (pictured), 43, was an aid worker who was his family’s sole supporter before he was killed in the US drone strike, which also took the lives of seven children and two adult family members
A damaged vehicle at the site of the US airstrike in Kabul, capital of Afghanistan
Relatives and neighbors of the Ahmadi family gathered around the incinerated husk of Ahmadi’s car
Ahmadi’s brother Emal, 32, who was just feet away from the remains of the car after the blast, said: ‘We didn’t have any money to bury our relatives. We had to borrow funds.’
And while he said he is ‘happy’ the Pentagon has acknowledged the miscalculations that led to his brother’s death, ‘forgiveness’ is too strong a word, as reported by The Post.
Family members said before the August 29 drone strike Ahmadi and his brother had applications processing for special visas to enter the U.S. because of their work with American companies.
The fatal blast heightened the surviving family’s urgency to leave, according to The Post and Ajmal Ahmadi, another brother, said his family is ‘worried’ and ‘feels under threat because we are so exposed to the public by the media’.
‘Everyone got to know that we have worked for foreigners, served in the Afghan army as well as the Afghan intelligence agency,’ he added.
The Taliban is known to take a grim view of Afghans with ties to the United States.
The Ahmadis also said the Americans responsible for the tragic mistake – the commander who oversaw the strike, the drone operator or anyone else who had visuals on the ground – need to be taken to court.
Emal said: ‘The US government must punish those who launched the drone strike. They knew and saw there were children on the ground. Can anyone bring them back?’
In the wake of a suicide attack that killed 13 US troops at the Kabul airport who cannot be brought back, US officials had intelligence that such a vehicle was involved in planning another attack, Marine Gen Frank McKenzie, head of US Central Command, said at a briefing on Friday afternoon.
A detailed timeline released by the Pentagon on Friday showed that on the morning of August 29, Ahmadi left the compound near the Kabul airport where he lived with his children, two brothers and nieces and nephews.
On his way to work Ahmadi picked up a coworker to carpool before stopping at the home of NEI’s director at 8.52am to pick up a laptop.
The director’s home had been under intense surveillance by MQ-9 Reaper drones and McKenzie continues to insist that solid intelligence links the home to ISIS-K.
Drone footage showed the fireball from the courtyard, which the Pentagon believed was proof of explosives in the car. They now say that a nearby propane tank was likely ignited by the missile
PICTURED: The 10 victims mistakenly killed by a US drone strike which was targeting ISIS-K in Afghanistan
However, a New York Times reporter visited the NEI director at his home and met with members of his family, who said they had been living there for 40 years.
‘We have nothing to do with terrorism or ISIS,’ said the director, who also has a US resettlement case. ‘We love America. We want to go there.’
Seeing the white Corolla that matched intelligence reports visiting the supposedly suspicious home, US officials latched on to the vehicle and tracked its every move. Everything they saw seemed to feed into their false theory that they were tracking a terrorist.
At 9.05am Ahmadi picked up a second co-worker not far from the director’s home and the three of them rode together to the NEI offices a few miles south.
At 9.35am Ahmadi and his two co-workers arrived at the offices of NEI, a California-based non-profit that promotes the cultivation of soy crops in Afghanistan. The Pentagon believed the offices to be another ‘suspicious compound’.
Drone surveillance captured Ahmadi and his colleagues unloading ‘bags and jugs’ once they arrived at the office, likely referring to empty water jugs that Ahmadi filled at work to bring home to his family.
A few hours later, at 11.22am, Ahmadi and some co-workers left the offices and drove to the 10th District Police station, which was controlled by the Taliban, to request permission to distribute food to displaced Afghans in a park.
McKenzie said that at around the same time US forces received a ‘sensitive intelligence collection indicating that an ISIS-K cell leader in Kabul was dropping off supplies,’ and apparently jumped to conclusions connecting the information to Ahmadi.
Ahmadi and his colleagues arrived at the police station at 12.11pm and stayed for about an hour, leaving to return to the NEI office at 1.27pm.
Ahmadi spent the afternoon at the non-profit offices and as he prepared to go home for the day, filled up several large jugs with water from a hose to take home, as water service in his neighborhood had been cut.
‘It was a mistake and I offer my sincere apology,’ Head of US Central Command Gen Frank McKenzie said
Witnesses helped him load the jugs, and surveillance video shows that they were filled with water. But the Pentagon believed it was witnessing bombs being loaded for an imminent attack.
At 3.47pm Ahmadi departed the office with three coworkers, giving them a ride home. They later told the Times that it was a normal commute, filled with laughing banter and jokes.
The one difference from normal was that Ahmadi did not turn on his car radio to listen to pop music as he usually did for fear of running afoul of the Taliban’s harsh restrictions.
At 4.11pm Ahmadi dropped off his first colleague then made two additional stops to drop off the others. The Pentagon noticed with alarm that the final drop-off, at 4.39pm, was just blocks away from the supposed ‘ISIS-K compound’ where surveillance on the car was first initiated.
At 4.51pm Ahmadi arrived home and began backing his car into the gated courtyard. A gaggle of children, nieces and nephews ran outside to greet him.
Ahmadi’s home is nearly two miles from Kabul airport, where US forces were holed up attempting an evacuation, and where a suicide attack had killed hundreds of Afghans and 13 Americans on August 26.
‘We were very concerned that the vehicle could move quickly and be at the airport boundary in a matter of moments,’ McKenzie said.
As the children greeted Ahmadi, his adult cousin Naser walked outside to help him bring the water jugs inside. US forces immediately assessed Naser to be a ‘co-conspirator’ and launched the strike, claiming that they did not see children in the area.
A Hellfire missile detonated inside the Corolla at 4.53pm. Killed were Ahmadi and three of his children, Zamir, 20, Faisal, 16, and Farzad, 10; Ahmadi’s cousin Naser, 30; three of Ahmadi’s nephews, Arwin, seven, Benyamin, six, and Hayat, two; and two three-year-old girls, Malika and Somaya.
The Pentagon initially claimed that a secondary explosion proved that the Corolla was carrying explosive materials. McKenzie admitted on Friday that the missile likely ignited a propane tank near the car, which created a large fireball spotted on drone surveillance.
McKenzie claimed that upon review of the drone footage, ‘a few partially obscured forms were briefly visible moving in the compound’.
‘The strike was a tragic mistake,’ McKenzie said.
Emal Ahmadi shows a photo of his family member who was killed during a US drone strike on their home
Ramal Ahmadi (center) was supported by family members at the mass funeral of the 10 victims killed in the drone strike
McKenzie apologized for the error and said the United States is considering making reparation payments to the family of the victims.
‘I am now convinced that as many as 10 civilians, including up to seven children, were tragically killed in that strike,’ McKenzie said. ‘Moreover, we now assess that it is unlikely that the vehicle and those who died were associated with ISIS-K or were a direct threat to US forces,’ he added.
McKenzie said that the order to carry out the strike was given by the commander of the over-the-horizon strike team, who has not been named publicly.
For days after the August 29 strike, Pentagon officials asserted that it had been conducted correctly, despite immediate reports from the ground that as many as seven children had been killed.
‘This was a righteous strike,’ said Joint Chiefs Chairman Mark A Milley, claiming that Ahmadi was an ‘ISIS facilitator’
Biden left DC shortly before the Pentagon briefing on Friday, heading to Delaware to spend the weekend in seclusion
‘This was a righteous strike,’ said Joint Chiefs Chairman Mark A Milley, insisting that Ahmadi was an ‘ISIS facilitator’.
Days after the attack President Joe Biden gave a speech in which he marked the withdrawal of American troops in Afghanistan by the August 31 deadline. He touted America’s ability to strike terrorists and targets without boots on the ground.
But he failed to mention the high civilian casualty rate from the August 29 drone strike, and he failed to mention that children had been killed.
‘We struck ISIS-K remotely, days after they murdered 13 of our service members and dozen of innocent Afghans. And to ISIS-K, we are not done with you yet,’ he said in his speech.
On Friday, Biden left DC before the Pentagon briefing to spend the weekend at his home in Delaware. He has not yet publicly addressed the disastrous intelligence failure.
Timeline leading up to the August 29 drone strike
8:52am: Surveillance initiated as Ahmadi picks up a laptop from the home of his non-profit’s director, which the Pentagon believes is an ISIS-K compound
9.05am: Ahmadi picks up a second co-worker to carpool to work
9.35am: Ahmadi and two co-workers arrive at the offices of US-based aid group Nutrition and Education International.
11.22am: The Corolla leaves the office.
12.11pm: Ahmadi arrives at the 10th District Police station, which is controlled by the Taliban, to request permission to distribute food to displaced Afghans in a park.
1.27pm: They leave at the police station and return to the office.
3.47pm: Back at the office at point items are loaded into the trunk of the Corolla, which are now known to be water jugs. Ahmadi departs the office with three co-workers to commute home.
4.11pm: The Corolla drops off one of Ahmadi’s coworkers.
4.39pm: Ahmadi drops off his third and final co-worker before heading home
4.51pm: Ahmadi arrives home and begins backing into his gated courtyard.
4.53pm: A Hellfire missile kills him and nine family members, including seven children.
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