US drone strike launched in Kabul killed civilians, not extremists, admits Pentagon

ITV News Correspondent Helen Keenan on how the US drone strike killed aid worker Zamairi Ahmadi - along with nine members of his family

A drone strike launched in Kabul by the US in August killed innocent civilians and not extremists, said the head of US Central Command.

Marine General Frank McKenzie said 10 civilians, including up to seven children, were killed in the strike, which he described as a "tragic mistake", on August 29.

In the days following the strike, Pentagon officials had insisted that the strike was carried out correctly.

However, doubts were raised when news reports said the driver of the targeted vehicle was a longtime employee at a US humanitarian organisation, and suggested there was a lack of evidence to support the Pentagon’s assertion that the truck contained explosives.

An internal review has now revealed that no members of ISIS-K - the Islamic State group’s Afghanistan affiliate - were killed in the attack, and only civilians were struck.

Mr McKenzie told a press conference on Friday the targeted vehicle was struck “in the earnest belief” that it posed an imminent threat.

Afghan journalists take photos of a destroyed vehicle outside a house after US drone strike in Kabul. Credit: AP/Khwaja Tawfiq Sediqi

“I am now convinced that as many as 10 civilians, including up to seven children, were tragically killed in that strike,” McKenzie said.

“Moreover, we now assess that it is unlikely that the vehicle and those who died were associated with ISIS-K, or a direct threat to US forces,” he added.

Mr McKenzie apologised for the mistake and said the US is considering making reparation payments to the family of the victims.General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters two days after the attack that it appeared to have been a “righteous” strike and that at least one of the people killed was a “facilitator” for the Islamic State group’s Afghanistan affiliate.

ISIS-K were behind a suicide bombing on August 26 that killed 169 Afghan civilians and 13 American service members at Kabul airport.

Mr Milley today expressed his regret over the strike and told reporters: “This is a horrible tragedy of war and it’s heart wrenching.

“We are committed to being fully transparent about this incident.”

Zemerai Ahmadi’s car was struck by a Hellfire missile as he pulled into the driveway of his home on August 29.

After beeping his horn outside the home, Mr Ahmadi's family said his 11-year-old son ran out and got in his vehicle as he drove it into the driveway.

The other kids ran out to watch, before the Hellfire missile incinerated the car, killing seven children and an adult son and nephew of Mr Ahmadi.

Accounts from relatives and documents from colleagues seen by The Associated Press, reportedly paint a picture of a family that had worked for the US and were trying to gain visas to the States, fearing for their lives under the Taliban.