In the US drone strike, evidence suggests there was no ISIS bomb

[explosion] In one of the final acts of its 20-year war in Afghanistan, the US fired a drone with a missile at a car in Kabul. It was parked in the courtyard of a house and the explosion killed 10 people, including 43-year-old Zemari Ahmadi and seven children, according to his family. The Pentagon alleged that Ahmadi was an intermediary for Islamic State and that his car was full of explosives, posing an imminent threat to US forces guarding the evacuation at Kabul airport. “The procedures were followed correctly and it was a fair strike.” What the military didn’t seem to know was that Ahmadi was a longtime helper who, according to colleagues and family members, spent the hours before his death running errands in the office and ending the day with a right of way to his house. Shortly afterwards, his Toyota was hit by a 20-pound Hellfire missile. What has been interpreted as suspicious movements by a terrorist may have been just an average day in his life. And it is possible that the military saw Ahmadi load cans of water into his car that he brought home for his family – not explosives. Using unprecedented surveillance camera footage from Ahmadi, interviews with his family, staff and witnesses, we will for the first time summarize his movements in the hours leading up to his murder. Zemari Ahmadi was a trained electrical engineer. He worked for the Kabul office of Nutrition and Education International for 14 years. “NEI has established a total of 11 soybean processing plants in Afghanistan.” It is a California-based NGO that combats malnutrition. Most days he drove one of the company’s white Toyota crowns, took his colleagues to and from work, and distributed the NGO’s groceries to the Afghans displaced by the war. Just three days before Ahmadi’s murder, 13 US soldiers and more than 170 Afghan civilians were killed in a suicide attack by the Islamic State at the airport. The military had given lower-level commanders authority to order air strikes earlier in the evacuation, and they were preparing for another attack they feared. In order to reconstruct Ahmadi’s movements on August 29, in the hours leading up to his murder, the Times compiled the surveillance cameras from his office with interviews with more than a dozen of Ahmadi’s colleagues and family members. Ahmadi appears to have left his house around 9 a.m. Then he picked up a colleague and his boss’s laptop near his home. Around this time, the US military claimed to have seen a white limousine leaving an alleged Islamic State hideout about three miles northwest of the airport. That is why the US military said it tracked Ahmadis Corolla that day. They also said they intercepted communications from the safe and instructed the car to make several stops. But every colleague who drove with Ahmadi that day said what the military interpreted as a series of suspicious movements was just a typical day in their life. After Ahmadi picked up another colleague, the three of them stopped for breakfast and arrived at the NGO office at 9.35 a.m. Later that morning, Ahmadi drove some of his staff to a Taliban-occupied police station to obtain permission for future food distribution in a new displacement camp. At around 2 p.m., Ahmadi and his colleagues returned to the office. The surveillance camera footage we received from the office is critical to understanding what happens next. The camera’s timestamp is disabled, but we went to the office and checked the time. We also matched an exact scene from the footage with a timestamped satellite image to confirm it was correct. At 2:35 p.m. Ahmadi pulls out a hose, then he and a colleague fill empty containers with water. Earlier in the morning we saw Ahmadi bring the same empty plastic bins into the office. His family said there was water shortage in his neighborhood, so he regularly brought home water from the office. At around 3:38 p.m., a colleague of Ahmadi’s car moved further into the driveway. A senior US official told us that around the same time, the military saw Ahmadi’s car pull into unknown territory 8 to 12 kilometers southwest of the airport. This overlaps with the location of the NGO office, which we believe the military describes as unknown. At the end of the working day, an employee switched off the office generator and the feed from the camera ended. We have no footage of the following moments. But at that point, the military said its drone feed showed four men carefully loading packages into the car. Officials said they couldn’t tell what was inside them. This footage from earlier in the day shows what the men allegedly carried with them – their laptop in a plastic bag. And in the trunk, said Ahmadi’s employees, there were only the water containers. Ahmadi dropped each of them off and then drove to his home in a dense neighborhood near the airport. He backed into the little yard of the house. According to his brother, children surrounded the car. A US official said the military feared the car would pull away and head to an even more crowded street or to the airport itself. The drone operators, who had not been watching Ahmadi’s house all day, quickly searched the yard and said they had only seen one adult man speaking to the driver and no children. They decided this was the time 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 single Hellfire missile with a 20-pound warhead. We found remains of the missile that experts said coincided with hellfire at the site of the attack. In the days following the attack, the Pentagon repeatedly claimed the missile attack sparked further explosions that likely killed civilians in the courtyard. “Significant secondary explosions from the targeted vehicle indicated the presence of a significant amount of explosive material.” “Because there were secondary explosions, it is reasonable to assume that this vehicle was carrying explosives.” But a senior military official later told us that it was only likely that explosives in the car caused another explosion. We collected photos and videos of the scene taken by journalists and visited the courtyard several times. We shared the evidence with three weapons experts who said the damage was equivalent to a Hellfire missile impact. They pointed to the small crater under Ahmadi’s car and the damage caused by the metal fragments from the warhead. This plastic melted as a result of a car fire triggered by the rocket attack. All three experts also pointed out the lack of any evidence of the major secondary explosions described by the Pentagon. No collapsed or blown walls, not even next to the trunk with the supposed explosives. No evidence that a second car parked in the yard was knocked over by a large explosion. No vegetation destroyed. All of this is in line with what eyewitnesses told us that a single missile exploded and started a large fire. One last detail can be seen in the rubble: containers that are identical to those that Ahmadi and his colleague filled with water and loaded into his trunk before driving home. Although the military said the drone team watched the car for eight hours that day, a senior official also said he was not aware of any water containers. The Pentagon has not provided the Times with evidence of explosives in Ahmadi’s vehicle, nor has it disclosed any alleged intelligence linking him to the Islamic State. But the morning after the US killed Ahmadi, the Islamic State fired rockets into the airport from a residential area that Ahmadi had passed through the day before. And the vehicle they used … … was a white Toyota. The U.S. military has so far admitted only three civilian deaths in its attack and says an investigation is ongoing. They also admitted they knew nothing about Ahmadi before killing him, which led them to interpret the work of an engineer from a US NGO as that of an Islamic State terrorist. Four days before Ahmadi’s murder, his employer requested that his family be relocated to the United States by refugees. At the time of the strike, they were still waiting for approval. Instead, seeking protection in the United States, they became some of the last casualties in America’s longest-running war. “Hi, I’m Evan, one of the producers of this story. Our most recent visual investigation began with news on social media of an explosion near Kabul airport. It turned out to be a US drone attack, one of the final acts in the 20 Years War in Afghanistan. Our aim was to fill in the loopholes in the version of the Pentagon events. We analyzed exclusive surveillance camera footage and combined it with eyewitness reports and expert analysis of the impact of the strike. You can see more of our research by subscribing to our newsletter. “