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Evidence Raises Questions About US Drone Strike

Driver could have been putting canisters of water, not explosives, in his vehicle
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 11, 2021 2:20 PM CDT
Evidence Raises Questions About US Drone Strike
Residents inspect damage to the Ahmadi family house after a US drone strike in Kabul on Aug. 29.   (AP Photo/Khwaja Tawfiq Sediqi, File)

(Newser) – Video footage and interviews in Kabul have raised questions about the Pentagon's account of the final, fatal US drone attack of the Afghanistan war. The drone struck a vehicle in a residential neighborhood on Aug. 29 that the military said carried explosives and was "an imminent ISIS-K threat" to American troops at the Kabul airport. A second explosion was evidence of explosives in the vehicle, a Pentagon spokesman said at the time. But it's not clear that there was a second blast, or that explosives were aboard, or that the driver was connected to ISIS, the New York Times reports. Ten civilians apparently were killed, seven of them children, though the Pentagon suggested the toll was three civilians.

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US officials said they thought the driver and another man near the vehicle had militant ties and were the only people in the area when the strike was launched. But in the roughly 30 seconds it took the drone to reach its target, three children approached the car, per the Washington Post. They were killed, as were the two men and five others. Experts who examined the evidence for the Post saw no indications that the vehicle had explosives; they said a second blast could have been caused by the sparking of fuel tank vapors. A senior military official said that the Pentagon's review isn't complete, but that the first analysis found a better than 50% chance the vehicle had explosives. "But 'likely' doesn’t 'mean for sure,'" the official said.

A drone had tracked the driver's movements all day. Military officials said that they didn't know who he was but that he raised suspicions by possibly going to an ISIS safe house and putting what might have been explosives in the vehicle. He was Zemari Ahmadi, and he worked for a California-based aid organization. Video showing him loading canisters of water into the vehicle for his family might have been misinterpreted, per the Times. Ahmadi's co-workers said that water deliveries had stopped in his neighborhood after the Afghan government fell and that he'd been taking water home from his office. (Read more Afghanistan war stories.)

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