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Afghan Survivors Seek Strike Probe     09/19 09:20

   

   KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) -- A survivor of an errant U.S. drone strike that 
killed 10 members of his family demanded Saturday that those responsible be 
punished and said Washington's apology was not enough.

   The family also seeks financial compensation and relocation to the United 
States or another country deemed safe, said Emal Ahmadi, whose 3-year-old 
daughter Malika was among those killed in the Aug. 29 strike.

   On that day, a U.S. hellfire missile struck the car that Ahmadi's brother 
Zemerai had just pulled into the driveway of the Ahmadi family compound as 
children ran to greet him. In all, 10 members of the family, including seven 
children, were killed in the strike.

   On Friday, U.S. Marine Gen. Frank McKenzie, head of U.S. Central Command, 
called the strike a "tragic mistake" and said that innocent civilians were 
indeed killed in the attack.

   The U.S. military initially defended the strike, saying it had targeted an 
Islamic State group's "facilitator" and disrupted the militants' ability to 
carry out attacks during the chaotic final stage of the withdrawal of U.S. and 
NATO troops from Afghanistan late last month.

   Discrepancies between the military's portrayal of the strike and findings on 
the ground quickly emerged. The Associated Press and other news organizations 
reported that the driver of the targeted vehicle was a longtime employee at a 
U.S. humanitarian organization. There were no signs of a large secondary blast, 
despite the Pentagon's assertion that the vehicle contained explosives.

   The drone strike followed a devastating suicide bombing by IS -- a rival of 
the Taliban -- that killed 169 Afghans and 13 U.S. military personnel at one of 
the gates to the Kabul airport in late August. At that time, large numbers of 
Afghans, desperate to flee the Taliban, had crowded the airport gates in hopes 
of getting on to evacuation flights.

   McKenzie apologized for the error and said the United States is considering 
making reparation payments to the family of the victims.

   Emal Ahmadi told the AP on Saturday that he wants the U.S. to investigate 
who fired the drone and punish those responsible.

   "That is not enough for us to say sorry," said Ahmadi who heard of the U.S. 
apology from friends in America. "The U.S.A. should find the person who did 
this."

   Ahmadi said he was relieved that an apology was offered and the family 
members he lost were recognized as innocent victims, but that this won't bring 
them back. He said that he was frustrated that the family never received a call 
from U.S. officials, despite repeated requests.

   He looked exhausted as he sat in front of the charred ruins of his brother's 
car.

   In the days before the Pentagon's apology, accounts from the family, 
documents from colleagues seen by the AP and the scene at the family home -- 
where Zemerai's car was struck by the missile -- all sharply contradicted the 
accounts by the U.S. military.

   Instead, they painted the picture of a family that had worked for Americans 
and were trying to gain visas to the U.S., fearing for their lives under the 
Taliban.

   Zemerai Ahmadi was the family's breadwinner and had looked after his three 
brothers, including Emal, and their children.

   "Now I am then one who is responsible for all my family and I am jobless," 
said Emal Ahmadi. The situation "is not good," said Ahmadi of life under the 
Taliban.

   International aid groups and the United Nations have warned of a looming 
humanitarian crisis that could drive most Afghans below the poverty level.

   McKenzie said the decision to strike a white Toyota Corolla sedan, after 
having tracked it for about eight hours, was made in an "earnest belief" -- 
based on a standard of "reasonable certainty" -- that it posed an imminent 
threat to American forces at the Kabul airport. The car was believed to have 
been carrying explosives in its trunk, he said.

   But Ahmadi wondered how the family's home could have been mistaken for an 
Islamic State hideout.

   "The U.S.A. can see from everywhere," he said of U.S. drone capabilities. 
"They can see that there were innocent children near the car and in the car. 
Whoever did this should be punished."

   "It isn't right," he added.

 
 
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