They are so burned we cannot identify their bodies: Grieving relatives’ fury over US drone strike targeting ISIS-K that killed six children, including two toddlers aged 2, and four adults
- The drone strike killed 10 people all from the same family, including six children according to survivors
- Children as young as two were killed in the blast which US authorities said had targeted an ISIS-K threat
- A family members of the victims vilified the strike as a ‘brutal attack based on wrong information’
- US Central Command said ISIS-K explosives were triggered in the drone strike, compounding the blast
- Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said US authorities were ‘not in a position to dispute’ civilian casualties
Grieving relatives have hit out after a US drone strike near Kabul airport killed ten people from the same family, including six children.
The innocent civilians were killed when a car parked outside their home was hit by the drone strike on Sunday, which was targeting a vehicle thought to be carrying a member of ISIS-K – the Islamic State affiliate responsible for the Kabul airport terror attacks just days ago.
‘Why have they killed our family? Our children? They are so burned out we cannot identify their bodies, their faces,’ anguished relative Ramin Yousufi told BBC reporters through tears.
Yousufi vilified the US strike as a ‘brutal attack which happened based on wrong information’.
Zemaray Ahmadi, 36, was killed alongside his sons Zamir, Faisal and Farzad – aged 20, 16 and 12 respectively, while Emal Ahmadi said his two-year-old daughter Malika Ahmadi also died.
Six of Zemaray’s nieces and nephews were also killed – a boy and girl both aged two, girls aged five and seven, a six-year-old boy and a 28-year-old man.
Meanwhile, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said US authorities were ‘not in a position to dispute’ reports of civilian casualties, but assured the press that ‘no military on the face of the earth works harder to avoid civilian casualties than the United States military, and nobody wants to see innocent life taken.’
The 10 victims of Sunday’s explosion were the collateral damage of a US drone strike which destroyed a car that the Pentagon said was laden with explosives that would be used by ISIS-K to use to target Americans.
US Central Command said these explosives were triggered in the drone strike, which led to a compounded blast responsible for the civilian casualties.
Yousufi said he feared that more attacks would take place and asked why no one is taking responsibility for the effects of such attacks on Afghan civilians.
Emal Ahmadi, another relative of the strike’s victims, told the BBC that it his two-year-old daughter who was killed in the strike while the family were waiting for a phone call from US personnel instructing them to go to the airport for evacuation.
Mr Ahmadi said he and others in the family had applied for evacuation to the US, including relative Ahmad Naser had previously worked as a translator with US forces before he too was killed in the explosion.
In a press briefing on Monday, Kirby said: ‘We’re in a particularly dangerous time right now.
‘The threat stream is still real, it’s still active, and in many cases it’s still specific.’
‘We take it very, very seriously and when we know that we have caused innocent life to be lost in the conduct of our operations, we’re transparent about it,’ said Kirby, who went on to defend the drone strike as a necessary action to eliminate ‘what we believed to be a very real, a very specific and a very imminent threat’ from ISIS-K.
The BBC obtained several images of children who were killed in the blast, though some of their names are not yet known.
A mass funeral for the 10 people the family said were killed in the strike took place on Monday in Kabul.
US forces are on high alert following a suicide bombing outside Kabul airport on Thursday which killed more than 100 civilians and 13 US troops and for which ISIS-K took responsibility.
For days, a sewage canal at the airport had become a holding pen for Afghans who, knee-deep in effluent, waved passports and signs pleading for Western help in boarding evacuation flights out of Kabul.
The canal bank became the target for the suicide bombers as a result of the high concentration of both civilians and US troops. ISIS-K alleged one suicide bomber got ‘within five meters’ of US troops before detonating the explosive device.
Thursday’s suicide bombings prompted Western forces to cut short their evacuation operations of Afghan civilians and instead shifted focus to rapidly removing troops and diplomatic personnel, leaving thousands of Afghan allies to fend for themselves in a country now controlled by the Taliban.
US troops, whose numbers grew to 5,800 after the evacuation operation began on August 14, were already departing ahead of the August 31 deadline set by President Joe Biden to fully exit the country.
Kirby said US officials have engaged the Taliban in extensive discussions to ensure the final hours of their evacuation proceeds safely.
‘We have been in communication with the Taliban about these final days, so that we can make sure there is no miscalculation, no misunderstanding,’ he said.
Major General Hank Taylor said more than 122,000 people have been evacuated from Kabul since July, including 5,400 Americans.
He said it will continue to be possible to evacuate US citizens still in Afghanistan to the last moment.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab confirmed that two British adults and a child were among the casualties of the suicide bombing, which has led ministers to declare they are prepared to ‘take action’ in eliminating further threats from ISIS-K.
Mr Raab said on Friday: ‘These were innocent people and it is a tragedy that as they sought to bring their loved ones to safety in the UK they were murdered by cowardly terrorists.
‘Yesterday’s despicable attack underlines the dangers facing those in Afghanistan and reinforces why we are doing all we can to get people out. We are offering consular support to their families.
‘We will not turn our backs on those who look to us in their hour of need and we will never be cowed by terrorists.’
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said he was ‘incredibly sad’ to learn that British nationals had lost their lives and added: ‘Getting your family to safety should not cost you your life. We must urgently help those left behind to avoid any more tragic deaths.’
Among the dead was Muhammad Niazi, a British Afghan who had travelled from London to help get his family inside the airport, according to the BBC.
Last night his youngest child, eldest daughter and wife were still missing.
His brother Abdul Hamid, who survived, said: ‘I saw some small children in the river [canal]. It was so bad. It was doomsday.’
His sister Marilyn described him as a ‘beautiful, intelligent, beat-to-the-sound of his own drum, annoying, charming baby brother.’
She added: ‘He was just a kid. He was a f****** medic. There to help people. And now he is gone and my family will never be the same.’