Surviving Relatives of U.S. Drone Strike Victims Remain Stranded in Afghanistan

[explosion] In one of the final acts of the 20-year war in Afghanistan, the United States fired a missile from a drone at a car in Kabul. It was parked in the yard of a house, and the explosion killed 10 people, including 43-year-old Zemari Ahmadi and seven children, according to his family. The Pentagon alleges that Ahmadi was an accomplice to the Islamic State, and that his vehicle was filled with explosives, posing an imminent threat to US troops guarding the evacuation at Kabul airport. . “The procedures were followed correctly, and it was a justifiable strike.” What the military doesn’t seem to know is that Ahmadi was a longtime aid worker who, colleagues and family members said, spent hours before his death doing office jobs and ending up with his family. End the day with a ride home. Soon after, his Toyota was hit by a 20-pound Hellfire missile. What is understood to be the suspicious moves of a terrorist may just be an ordinary day in his life. And it’s possible that what the military saw Ahmadi loading his car with were buckets of water he was bringing home for his family – not explosives. Using Ahmadi’s never-before-seen security camera footage, interviews with his family, colleagues and witnesses, we’ll piece together for the first time his movements in the previous hours. when he was killed. Zemari Ahmadi is a trained electrical engineer. For 14 years, he worked for the Kabul office of Nutrition and International Education. “NEI has established a total of 11 soybean processing plants in Afghanistan.” It’s a California-based NGO that fights malnutrition. On most days, he drives one of the company’s white Toyotas, drives his colleagues to and from work, and distributes NGO food to Afghans displaced by the war. . Just three days before Ahmadi was killed, 13 American soldiers and more than 170 Afghan civilians died in an Islamic State suicide attack at the airport. The military has given junior commanders orders to strike earlier in the evacuation, and they are preparing for what they fear is another imminent attack. To reconstruct Ahmadi’s movements on August 29, in the hours before he was killed, The Times stitched together security camera footage from his office, with interviews with more than a dozen Ahmadi’s colleagues and family members. Ahmadi appeared to have left his home around 9am. Then he picked up a colleague and his boss’s laptop near his house. Around this time, the U.S. military announced that it observed a white sedan leaving an alleged Islamic State warehouse, about 5 kilometers northwest of the airport. That’s why the US military said it tracked down Ahmadi’s car that day. They also said they had blocked communications from the safe house, directing the vehicle to stop at certain points. But every colleague who accompanied Ahmadi that day said that what the military interpreted as a series of suspicious moves was just a typical day in his life. After Ahmadi picked up another colleague, the three stopped for breakfast, and at 9:35 a.m., they arrived at the NGO’s office. Later that morning, Ahmadi drove some of his colleagues to a Taliban-occupied police station to ask for permission to distribute food in the future at a newly moved camp. Around 2 p.m., Ahmadi and his colleagues returned to the office. The security camera footage we obtained from the office is crucial to understanding what happens next. The camera timestamp is off, but we went to the office and verified the time. We also matched an exact scene from the footage with a timestamp satellite image to confirm it was accurate. 2:35 p.m., Ahmadi pulled out a hose, then he and a colleague filled empty buckets with water. Early that morning, we saw Ahmadi bringing these empty plastic containers to the office. His family said there was a water shortage in the neighborhood, so he regularly brought water home from the office. At about 3:38 p.m., a colleague moved Ahmadi’s car into the driveway. A senior US official told us that around that time, the military saw Ahmadi’s vehicle being pulled into an unspecified area 8 to 12 km southwest of the airport. That overlaps with the location of the NGO’s office, which we believe the military calls an unspecified complex. When the workday is over, an employee turns off the office generator and the camera feed ends. We don’t have footage of those moments after that. But it was at this point that the military said its drone feed showed four men tiptoeing over wrapped packages into vehicles. Officials said they could not know what was inside them. This footage from earlier in the day shows what the men said they were carrying – a laptop of theirs in a plastic shopping bag. And the only things in the trunk, Ahmadi’s colleagues said, were containers of water. Ahmadi dropped them off one by one, then drove back to his home in a dense neighborhood near the airport. He retreated into the courtyard of the house. Children surrounded the car, according to his brother. A US official said the military was concerned the vehicle would leave again and enter a busier street or reach the airport. The drone operators, who hadn’t watched Ahmadi’s home all day, quickly swept the yard and said they saw only one adult male talking to the driver and no children em. They decided it was time to attack. A US official told us that the attack on Ahmadi’s car was carried out by an MQ-9 Reaper drone that fired a single Hellfire missile with a 20-pound warhead. We found the remains of the rocket, which experts say coincided with the Hellfire at the scene of the attack. In the days following the attack, the Pentagon repeatedly claimed that the missile strike caused other explosions, and these explosions may have killed civilians in the yard. “Significant secondary explosions from the targeted vehicle indicate the presence of a significant amount of explosive material.” “Because there were secondary explosions, it is a reasonable conclusion that there were explosives in that vehicle.” But a senior military official later told us that it was only possible that the explosives in the vehicle caused another explosion. We have collected photos and videos of the scene taken by journalists and have visited the yard several times. We shared evidence with three weapons experts who said the damage matched the impact of a Hellfire missile. They pointed to the small crater beneath Ahmadi’s car and the damage from the metal shrapnel of the warhead. This plastic was melted due to a car fire caused by a missile strike. All three experts also pointed to what was missing: any evidence of the large secondary explosions described by the Pentagon. None of the walls collapsed or exploded, not even the side of the tree with the supposed explosives. There is no indication that the second vehicle parked in the yard was overturned by a large explosion. No vegetation is destroyed. All of this matches what the witness told us, that a single rocket exploded and caused a large fire. There is one final detail visible in the wreckage: containers that are identical to the ones that Ahmadi and his colleagues filled with water and loaded into the trunk of his car before heading home. Although the military said the drone fleet monitored the vehicle for eight hours that day, a senior official also said it was not aware of any water containers. The Pentagon did not provide The Times with evidence of explosives in Ahmadi’s vehicle or share what it said was intelligence linking him to Islamic State. But on the morning after the US killed Ahmadi, the Islamic State launched a missile at the airport from a residential area that Ahmadi had flown the day before. And the car they used…… was a white Toyota. The US military has so far admitted only three civilians were killed in its attack, and says an investigation is underway. They also admitted to knowing nothing about Ahmadi before killing him, leading them to understand the work of an engineer at a US NGO was that of an Islamic State terrorist. Four days before Ahmadi was killed, his employer applied for his family’s asylum in the United States. At the time of the strike, they were still awaiting approval. Looking to the United States for protection, they have instead become some of the ultimate victims of America’s longest war. “Hi, I’m Evan, one of the producers of this story. Our latest visual investigation started with an explosion near Kabul airport on social media. It turned out to be an American drone strike, one of the last acts in the 20-year war in Afghanistan. Our goal is to fill in the gaps in the Pentagon’s version of events. We analyzed proprietary security camera footage and combined it with eyewitness accounts and expert analysis of the strike’s aftermath. You can see more of our surveys by subscribing to our newsletter. “

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