The U.S. government reported a drone strike launched against a suspected terrorist in Afghanistan towards the end of the military withdrawal from Kabul, but the event is being challenged by a report suggesting that the actual victim would have been a humanitarian worker along with his family.
According to an investigation published by the New York Times, a U.S. drone strike carried out during the final days leading up to the military withdrawal from Afghanistan would have killed an Afghan aid worker and his family, not an ISIS target in a car bombing as reported by the Biden administration.
The Pentagon announced in late August that the drone strike was in response to an imminent threat from suspected suicide bombers, who planned to attack crowds near the airport seeking to escape Afghanistan after the Taliban takeover.
Days earlier, an ISIS-K suicide bomber detonated an explosive at the airport, ultimately killing 13 U.S. military personnel and more than 170 Afghans. Military leaders were on high alert for the possibility of another attack as the U.S. completed its evacuation.
NY Times reporter Evan Hill posted a series of videos on his Twitter account recounting the events and showing images of Zemari Ahmadi, the alleged aid worker who was allegedly wrongfully killed.
“Ahmadi was a 14-year employee of Nutrition & Education International, a U.S. NGO that fights malnutrition. He helped start up soy factories, repair machinery, transport his colleagues and distribute food from his Corolla to displaced Afghans,” reports another of Hill’s messages.
According to the investigation, the attack in addition to killing Ahmadi also killed nine other civilian members of his family, including seven children.
Security footage obtained by the Times shows Ahmadi parking his car in the courtyard of his home as his children approached the vehicle to greet him. Eyewitnesses confirmed that moments later a missile struck the vehicle and caused a massive fire, resulting in the deaths of those present.
The Pentagon had been tracking Ahmadi’s vehicle throughout the day, after following the hypothesis that he had stopped in the area of an ISIS-K safe house. Surveillance footage showed him and other men carrying loose bags and buckets of water in his white Toyota.
Army Gen. and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley claimed that a secondary explosion confirms that Ahmadi’s car was packed with explosives. But the Times report also disputes that claim.
“An examination of the scene of the strike, conducted by the Times visual investigations team and a Times reporter the morning afterward, and followed up with a second visit four days later, found no evidence of a second, more powerful explosion,” the report states.
Pentagon officials did not comment on the investigation but said they were looking into the situation.