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Independent surveys of The New York Times and The Washington Post challenge claims by the US military that its August 29 drone strike in Kabul destroyed a car driven by an ISIS-K supporter, which allegedly contained explosives destined for Kabul airport.
The initial of the United States Central Command declaration described the strike as a “self-defense” operation that eliminated an “imminent ISIS-K threat” to the airport. “Large secondary explosions from the vehicle indicated the presence of a substantial amount of explosive material.” At a press conference on September 1, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, called him “fair strike“who correctly followed the procedures.
But the Times and To post Investigations failed to find any evidence of explosives in the car, which they said was driven by Zemari Ahmadi, 43, an engineer working for the U.S. aid group Nutrition and Education International, which aims to eliminate malnutrition in Afghanistan. Family members told the Times that Ahmadi had requested the resettlement of the refugees in the United States.
Ahmadi was not the only person killed by the drone strike. Ahmadi’s relatives told the Times that 10 members of their family were killed, including seven children.
US Central Command spokesman Captain Bill Urban declined to comment on the allegations, citing an ongoing investigation. But a senior US official told NPR Central Command continued to believe it was a legitimate target. What is uncertain, the source said, is whether the driver was part of the alleged terror effort or was forced into it.
The Centcom group that gathered the intelligence is reviewing all the information it had, although it is not certain when or if any results will be made public.
Military officials said the driver appeared to have loaded explosives into the car that day, but security camera footage obtained by the Times shows that the suspected explosives were likely containers used to carry water to his family. “I filled the containers myself and helped him load them into the trunk,” a guard said. Times.
The Times and To post analyzes have also questioned military claims of “secondary explosions” in the courtyard. Times journalists could find no evidence of a second explosion at the scene. Experts noted the absence of collapsed walls or destroyed vegetation. “This seriously calls into question the credibility of the intelligence or the technology used to determine that this was a legitimate target,” said security consultant Chris Cobb-Smith. Times.
Explosives experts told the To post that the damage was mainly caused by the Hellfire missile fired by the drone. If there was a secondary explosion, two experts said, it was likely caused by ignited fuel vapors.
“My theory is as follows: [Hellfire] the explosives themselves ruptured the gasoline tank, released the vapor, and because of the fire that occurred shortly thereafter, it exploded and caused something that could look like an explosion, ” said Ferenc Dalnoki-Veress, professor at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies.
Steven Kwon, president of California-based Nutrition and Education International, told the To post that the white sedan belonged to the organization. After Ahmadi met at the NEI compound to discuss an emergency food aid program for the displaced, he spent the rest of the day shopping, Kwon said.
Kwon denied that NEI has any association with ISIS-K. “We are trying to help people,” he told the To post. “Why would we have explosives to kill people? “
NPR Pentagon reporter Tom Bowman contributed to this report.