The US military on Friday admitted that it killed 10 civilians in a drone strike near Kabul’s airport last month — and not Islamic State bomb plotters, as originally claimed.
Marine Corps Gen. Kenneth McKenzie Jr., commander of US Central Command, said 10 civilians “were tragically killed in that strike” on Aug. 29, one day before the final US evacuation flights from Kabul.
“It was a mistake and I offer my sincere apology,” McKenzie said at a press conference. “Clearly, our intelligence was wrong on this particular white Toyota.”
Aid worker Zemari Ahmadi and nine members of his family, including seven children, were killed in the airstrike, according to his brother Romal Ahmadi.
The Pentagon initially presented the airstrike as a successful mission to prevent another bombing of the Kabul airport after 13 US service members and at least 169 Afghans died in a suspected Islamic State suicide attack on Aug. 26.
“The procedures were correctly followed and it was a righteous strike,” Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said afterward.
Ahmadi worked for 14 years as a technical engineer in Afghanistan for the Pasadena, Calif.-based charity group Nutrition and Education International, which feeds hungry Afghans.
Security footage from his workplace, published by the New York Times, showed Ahmadi, whose neighborhood had unreliable water service, filling containers with water at his employer’s office at 2:35 p.m. shortly before he returned home.
The military had been given broad leeway to attack suspected terrorists without presidential approval after the airport bombing — despite consistent reports of civilian casualties linked to US airstrikes during the nearly 20-year war in Afghanistan.
One day after the airport attack, the US military said it killed two suspected members of the Islamic State group in eastern Afghanistan on Aug. 27 via drone strike — though the Biden administration has refused to reveal their names.