US military admits it killed 10 civilians, targeted wrong vehicle in Kabul airstrike

ByAnna Coren, Julia Hollingsworth and Sandi Sidhu, CNN via WPVI logo
Friday, September 17, 2021
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A U.S. military investigation into a deadly Kabul drone strike has found that it killed 10 civilians and targeted the wrong vehicle, officials said.

KABUL, Afghanistan -- A United States military investigation into a deadly Kabul drone strike in August has found that it killed 10 civilians and the driver and the vehicle targeted was likely not a threat associated with ISIS-K, according to a US military official familiar with the investigation.

The Pentagon had maintained that at least one ISIS-K facilitator and three civilians were killed in what Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Mark Milley had previously called a "righteous strike" on the compound on August 29. The investigation released Friday found that all of those killed in the residential compound were civilians.

A destroyed vehicle is seen inside a house after a U.S. drone strike in Kabul, Afghanistan, Sunday, Aug. 29, 2021.
AP Photo/Khwaja Tawfiq Sediqi

In the lead up to the strike, drone operators surveilled the courtyard for up to 4 to 5 minutes. In that time, a male driver left the vehicle. One child was parking the vehicle and other children were present in the car and the courtyard -- as CNN had been told by the Ahmadi family.

The military based the strike on a reasonable certainty standard to launch the strike on the vehicle. Tragically, it was the wrong vehicle, the official said, adding that no reasonable certainty is not 100% certainty.

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Previously, US Central Command pointed to "significant secondary explosions" as evidence of a "substantial amount of explosive material" in the vehicle. On Friday, the US military source said that after reviewing footage from infra-red sensors, they would no longer characterize this as an explosion -- instead, it was more of a flare up.

The US official said that in the time leading up to the strike, the US had at least 60 different intelligence reports about threat streams toward US forces at Hamid Karzai International Airport.

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