New York Times investigation reveals no ISIS bomb in car hit by US drone

Kabul, Afghanistan – This was the last known missile fired by the United States in its 20-year war in Afghanistan, and the military called it a “religious strike” – following a drone strike against a vehicle on August 29 which the U.S. Authorities thought the Islamic State was a bomb and an imminent threat to the troops at Kabul’s airport.

But a New York Times investigation of video evidence, including interviews with more than a dozen co-workers and family members of the driver in Kabul, raises doubts about the US version of events, including whether explosives were present in the vehicle. Or not. The driver had links to the Islamic State group and whether there was a second explosion after the missile hit the car.

Military officials said they did not know the identity of the driver of the car when the drone fired, but thought he was suspicious because of how they interpreted his movements that day, saying he was possibly an Islamic State group safe house. They visited and, at one point, loaded what they thought might be explosives in the car.

Times reporting identified the driver as Jemari Ahmadi, a longtime activist for the American aid group. The evidence, which includes extensive interviews with family members, co-workers, and witnesses, shows that his travels that day actually involved bringing in and taking coworkers to work. And analysis of the video feed revealed that what the military saw was Ahmadi and an aide loading water canisters into their trunks to bring their families home.

While the US military said three civilians could have been killed in the drone strike, the Times reported that 10 people, including seven children, were killed in the dense residential block.

Ahmadi, 43, had worked as an electrical engineer for Nutrition & Education International, a California-based aid and advocacy group, since 2006. On the day of the strike, Ahmadi’s boss called from the office at around 8:45 a.m. and asked him to pick up his laptop.

“I asked him if he was still at home, and he said yes,” the country director said in an interview at NEI’s office in Kabul. Like the rest of Ahmadi’s aides, he spoke on condition of anonymity because of his affiliation with a US company in Afghanistan.

According to his relatives, Ahmadi left for work around 9 p.m. in a 1996 white Toyota Corolla that belonged to NEI, leaving his home, a few miles from the airport, with his three brothers and their families. lived in the west.

U.S. officials told The Times that it was around this time that their target, a white sedan, first came under surveillance after it was identified as the safe home of an alleged Islamic State group, about 3 miles northwest of the airport. I was seen exiting the identified premises.

It is not clear whether the officials were referring to one of the three stops Ahmadi made to take two passengers and a laptop to work: the latter, the home of the NEI’s country director, where a rocket attack was reported. It was claimed the next morning the Islamic State group would be launched against the airport from an improvised launcher concealed inside the trunk of a Toyota Corolla, a model similar to Ahmadi’s vehicle.

A Times reporter visited the director at his home and met his family members, who said they have lived 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.”

Throughout the day, an MQ-9 Reaper drone continued to track Ahmadi’s vehicle as it drove around Kabul, and US officials said they intercepted communications between the sedan and the alleged Islamic State group’s safe home , instructed it to make several stops.

But those aboard Ahmadi that day said what the military interpreted as a series of suspicious moves was a normal day at work.

After stopping for breakfast, Ahmadi and his two passengers arrived at the NEI office, where security camera footage obtained by The Times recorded their arrival at 9:35 a.m. , where he said he requested permission to distribute food to refugees in a nearby park. Ahmadi and his three passengers returned to the office at around 2 pm

As can be seen in the camera footage, Ahmadi came out half an hour later with a hose carrying a stream of water. He filled several empty plastic cans with the help of a guard. According to his co-workers, the water supply in their neighborhood was cut off after the government fell and Ahmadis were fetching water from the office.

“I filled the containers myself and helped load them into the trunk,” the guard said.

At 3:38 p.m., the guard and another co-worker drove the car into the driveway ahead. Camera footage is soon exhausted, when the office turns off its generator at the end of the working day, and Ahmadi and the three passengers leave for home.

Around this time, US officials said drones had tracked Ahmadi to a compound 5 to 7 miles southwest of the airport, a location that corresponded to the NEI’s office. There, he said the drone saw Ahmadi and three others loading heavy packages into the car, which they believed may contain explosives.

But the passengers said they only had two laptops, which they kept inside the vehicle, and that the trunk did not contain any cargo other than plastic water-filled containers that had been kept there earlier. In separate interviews, the three passengers denied loading explosives in the vehicle they were on their way home.

According to one of Ahmadi’s passengers, a colleague who regularly traveled with him, the ride home was filled with their usual laughs and jokes, but with one difference: Ahmadi kept the radio silent, as he was with the Taliban. He was afraid of getting into trouble. “He loved happy music,” said Ally. “That day, we couldn’t play in the car.”

Ahmadi dropped off three of his passengers and then headed to his home near the airport. “I asked him to come inside for a while, but he said he was tired,” said the last passenger.

Although US officials said they still knew little about Ahmadi’s identity at the time, they were convinced that the white sedan he was driving was an imminent threat to the troops at the airport.

When Ahmadi pulled into the courtyard of his home – which officials described as separate from the alleged Islamic State group’s safe home – the tactical commander decided to attack his vehicle, launching a Hellfire missile at around 4:50 p.m.

Although the target was now inside a densely populated residential area, the drone operator quickly scanned and saw only one adult male greeting the vehicle, and therefore assessed with “reasonable certainty” whether there were any women, children or non-humans. Fighters will not be killed, US officials said.

But according to his relatives, as Ahmadi went into his courtyard, several of his children and the children of his brothers came out, excited to see him, and got into the car and took the car inside. Ahmadi’s brother Romal was sitting on the ground floor with his wife when he heard the gate opening and Ahmadi going inside the car. Her adult cousin Nasir had gone to get water for her bath and greeted her.

Romal recalled that the car’s engine was still running when there was a sudden explosion and broken glass was sprinkled through the window of the room. He stumbled on his feet. “Where are the kids?” He asked his wife.

“They’re out,” she replied.

Romal ran to the courtyard; He saw that his 16-year-old nephew Faisal had fallen from the outside ladder, seriously injuring his torso and head by shrapnel. “He wasn’t breathing.”

He said he saw another dead nephew and dragged him away before neighbors could arrive amid the smoke and fire.

Since the strike, US military officials have justified their actions, citing an even larger explosion that followed.

General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said last week, “Since there were secondary explosions, a reasonable conclusion can be drawn that there are explosives in that vehicle.”

But the scene of the strike, conducted the morning after by The Times’ visual investigation team and a Times reporter, and after a second visit four days later, found no evidence of a second, more powerful explosion.

Experts who examined the photos and videos reported that, although there was clear evidence of a missile attack and subsequent vehicle fire, there were no collapsed or blown-out walls, no destroyed vegetation and only a dent in the entrance. , which was a sign of a shock. Wave.

“This seriously questions the credibility of intelligence or technology used to set a legitimate target,” said Chris Cobb-Smith, a British military veteran and security adviser.

While the US military has so far acknowledged only three civilian casualties, Ahmadi’s relatives said 10 members of his family, including seven children, were killed in the attack: Ahmadi and his three children, Zameer, 20, Faisal, 16. and Farzad, 10; Ahmadi’s cousin Nasser, 30; Romal has three children, Arvin, 7, Benjamin, 6, and Hayat, 2; and two 3-year-old girls, Malika and Somaya.

Neighbors and an Afghan health official confirmed that the bodies of the children had been removed from the site. He said the blast had bitten most of the victims; The next day a reporter saw fragments of human remains in and around the compound, with blood and flesh splattered on the interior walls and ceiling. Ahmadi’s relatives provided photographs of several badly burned bodies of children.

Family members questioned why the Americans would be motivated to attack when Ahmadi had already applied for refugee resettlement in the United States. His adult cousin Nassar, a former US military contractor, also applied for resettlement. He had planned to marry his fiancée Samia last Friday so that she could be included in his immigration case.

Ahmadi’s brother Imal said, “They were all innocent.” “You say he was ISIS, but he worked for the Americans.”

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

Copyright: © 2021 The New York Times Company

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