Pentagon admitted on Friday that the drone strike in Afghanistan late last month that killed as many as 10 civilians, and not an IS-K terrorist as the US military previously reported.
An investigation by Central Command determined that the August 29 strike in the capital Kabul killed an innocent aid worker — identified by friends and colleagues as Zamairi Akmadhi— and as many as nine of his family members, including seven children.
The youngest victim, Sumaya, was just two years old.
The deadly strike happened days after a terror attack at Kabul airport, amid a frenzied evacuation effort following the Taliban’s sudden return to power.
It was one of the US military’s final acts in Afghanistan, before ending its 20-year operation in the country.
US intelligence had tracked the aid worker’s car for eight hours, believing it was linked to IS-K militants – a local branch of the Islamic State (IS) group, US Central Command Gen Kenneth McKenzie said.
The investigation found the man’s car had been seen at a compound associated with IS-K, and its movements aligned with other intelligence about the terror group’s plans for an attack on Kabul airport.
At one point, a surveillance drone saw men loading what appeared to be explosives into the boot of the car, but it turned out to be containers of water.
Gen McKenzie described the strike as a “tragic mistake”, and added that the Taliban had not been involved in the intelligence that led to the strike.
The strike happened as the aid worker Akmadhi pulled into the driveway of his home, 3km (1.8 miles) from the airport.
The explosion set off a secondary blast, which US officials initially said was proof that the car was indeed carrying explosives. However the investigation has found it was most likely caused by a propane tank in the driveway.
Relatives of the victims told the BBC the day after the strike that they had applied to be evacuated to the US, and had been waiting for a phone call telling them to go to the airport.
One of those killed, Ahmad Naser, had been a translator with US forces. Other victims had previously worked for international organisations and held visas allowing them entry to the US.
When the US started to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan, the Taliban managed to seize control of the country within about two weeks in a lightning-fast offensive.
President Ashraf Ghani fled to the United Arab Emirates, and Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul, fell on August 15.
It sparked a mass evacuation effort from the US and its allies, as thousands of people tried to flee. Many were foreign nationals or Afghans who had worked for foreign governments.
There were scenes of panic and chaos at Kabul airport, and some people fell to their death after trying to cling on to the side of US military planes as they took off.
The security situation was further heightened after a suicide bomber killed up to 170 civilians and 13 US troops outside the airport on August 26. IS-K said it had carried out the attack.
Many of those killed had been hoping to board one of the evacuation flights leaving the city.
The last US soldier left Afghanistan on August 31 – the deadline President Joe Biden had set for the US withdrawal.
More than 124,000 foreigners and Afghans were flown out of the country before the deadline. But some people were unable to get out in time, and evacuation efforts are ongoing. (Source: BBC)