[explosion] In one of the last acts of its 20-year war in Afghanistan, the United States fired a missile from a drone at a car in Kabul. It stood in the courtyard of a house, and the blast killed 10 people, including 43-year-old Zamari Ahmadi and seven children, according to his family. The Pentagon claimed that Ahmadi was a facilitator for the Islamic State, and that his car was packed with explosives, posing an imminent threat to US troops guarding the evacuation at Kabul airport. “Procedures were followed correctly, and it was a justified strike.” The military apparently did not know that Ahmadi was a longtime aid worker whom aides and family members said had spent hours before his death running office errands, and ended his days by dragging himself to his home. signed off. Shortly thereafter, his Toyota was targeted by a 20-pound Hellfire missile. What was interpreted as a suspicious ploy by a terrorist could be just an average day in his life. And it is possible that the military saw Ahmadi filling his car with canisters of water that he was bringing home to his family – not explosives. Using never-before-seen security camera footage of Ahmadi, interviews with his family, co-workers and witnesses, we piece together for the first time his actions in the hours before he was killed. Zamari Ahmadi was an electrical engineer by training. For 14 years, she worked for the Kabul office of Nutrition and Education International. “NEI set up a total of 11 soybean processing plants in Afghanistan.” It is a California based NGO that fights malnutrition. Most days, he would drive one of the company’s white Toyota Corollas, take his colleagues to work and distribute the NGO’s food to war-displaced Afghans. Ahmadi’s killing came just three days after an Islamic State suicide attack on the airport killed 13 US troops and more than 170 Afghan civilians. The military had empowered lower-level commanders to order the first air strike in the evacuation, and they were prepared in anticipation of another imminent attack. To reconstruct Ahmadi’s activities on 29 August, hours before he was killed, The Times pieced together security camera footage from Ahmadi’s office with interviews with more than a dozen associates and family members . Ahmadi appears to have left home around 9 a.m., then picked up the laptop of a co-worker and his boss near his house. It was around this time that the US military claimed to have seen a white sedan leaving an alleged Islamic State safe haven about five kilometers northwest of the airport. So the US military said that they tracked Ahmadi’s Corolla that day. He also states that he intercepted communications with the safehouse, instructing the car to make several stops. But every coworker who rode with Ahmadi that day said what the military interpreted as a series of suspicious moves was just a normal day in their lives. After picking up another associate of Ahmadi’s, the three stayed for breakfast and reached the NGO’s office at 9:35 am. Later that morning, Ahmadi took some of his co-workers to a Taliban-held police station to seek permission for future food distribution to a new displacement camp. Around 2 pm, Ahmadi and his aides returned to the office. The security camera footage we received from the office is critical to understanding what happens next. The camera’s timestamp is off, but we went to the office and verified the time. We also matched an exact view with a timestamped satellite image to confirm the exact view of the footage. At 2:35 p.m., Ahmadi pulls out a hose, and then he and a co-worker fill empty containers with water. That morning we saw Ahmadi bringing the same empty plastic bins to the office. His family said that there was a shortage of water in their neighbourhood, so he regularly brought water home from office. At approximately 3:38 p.m., a co-worker pulls Ahmadi’s car into the driveway. A senior US official told us that around the same time, the military observed Ahmadi’s car driving to an undisclosed compound 8 to 12 kilometers southwest of the airport. It overlaps with the office location of the NGO, which we believe the military is calling the undisclosed compound. As the workday ended, an employee shut down the office’s generator and the feed from the camera ended. We don’t have footage of the moments that followed. But it is at this moment, the military said, that its drone feed showed four men carefully loading wrapped packages into a car. Officials said they could not tell what was inside them. This footage from earlier in the day shows the men said they were carrying laptops in plastic shopping bags with them. And the only things in the trunk, Ahmadi’s co-workers said, were containers of water. Ahmadi dropped each of them off, then went to his home in a dense neighborhood near the airport. He came to the small courtyard of the house. According to his brother, the children surrounded the car. A US official said the military feared the car would leave again, and head to another crowded street or airport itself. The drone operator, who had not been tracking Ahmadi’s home at all that day, quickly scanned the courtyard and said he only saw an adult male talking to the driver and no children. He decided this was the moment to strike. A US official told us that the attack on Ahmadi’s car was carried out by an MQ-9 Reaper drone that fired a Hellfire missile with a 20-pound warhead. We found remnants of a missile, which experts said matched a Hellfire, at the site of the strike. In the days following the attack, the Pentagon repeatedly claimed that the missile strike set off other explosions, and that it likely killed civilians in the courtyard. “Significant secondary explosions from the target vehicle indicated the presence of a substantial amount of explosive material.” “Since there were secondary explosions, a reasonable conclusion can be drawn that there were explosives in that vehicle.” But a senior military officer later told us that it was only possible that the explosives in the car caused another blast. We collected photographs and videos of the scene taken by reporters and visited the courthouse several times. We shared evidence with three weapons experts who said the damage was consistent with an impact from a Hellfire missile. He pointed to the small crater under Ahmadi’s car and the damage caused by metal fragments from the warhead. The plastic melted due to the fire in the car caused by the missile attack. The three experts also pointed to what was missing: any evidence of the large secondary explosions described by the Pentagon. There is no collapsed or blown wall next to the trunk with the alleged explosives. There is no indication that a second car parked in the courtyard was overturned by the massive explosion. No destroyed vegetation. This all coincides with what eyewitnesses told us, that one of the missiles exploded and a huge fire broke out. One final detail is visible in the wreckage: similar containers that Ahmadi and his colleague filled with water and loaded into their trunks before heading home. Even though the army said that the drone team observed the car for eight hours that day, a senior official also said that they were not aware of any water container. The Pentagon has not provided The Times with evidence of explosives in Ahmadi’s vehicle or shared what they say links him to the Islamic State. But the morning the US killed Ahmadi, Islamic State fired rockets at the airport from a residential area that Ahmadi had run the previous day. And the vehicle they used… was a white Toyota. The US military has so far acknowledged only three civilian deaths from its strike and said it was under investigation. He also admitted that he knew nothing about Ahmadi before he was killed, which led him to interpret the work of an engineer at an American NGO as an Islamic State terrorist. Four days before Ahmadi was killed, his employer applied for his family to receive refugee resettlement in the United States. At the time of the strike, they were still waiting for approval. Looking to America for protection, they instead became the final victims of America’s longest war. “Hi, I’m Evan, one of the producers of this story. Our latest visual investigation began with an explosion near Kabul airport being broadcast on social media. It turned out to be a US drone strike, which took place in Afghanistan. was one of the last acts in the 20-year war in the U.S. Our goal was to fill in the gaps in the Pentagon’s version of events. We analyzed exclusive security camera footage, and combined it with eyewitness accounts and expert analysis of the aftermath of the strike You can see more of our investigations by signing up for our newsletter.
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