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Afghan survivors of US drone strike say apology is not enough

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Damage to the Ahmadi family house after August's US drone strike. Picture by Khwaja Tawfiq Sediqi

Damage to the Ahmadi family house after August's US drone strike. Picture by Khwaja Tawfiq Sediqi

The Ahmadi family pray at the cemetery next to family graves of family members killed by a US drone strike. Picture by Bernat Armangue

The Ahmadi family pray at the cemetery next to family graves of family members killed by a US drone strike. Picture by Bernat Armangue

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Damage to the Ahmadi family house after August's US drone strike. Picture by Khwaja Tawfiq Sediqi

Saying sorry is not enough for the Afghan survivors of an errant US drone strike that killed 10 members of their family, including seven children.

Emal Ahmadi, whose three-year-old daughter Malika was killed on August 29 when the US missile struck his elder brother’s car, yesterday said the family demands Washington investigate who fired the drone and punish the military personnel responsible for the strike.

“That is not enough for us to say sorry,” said Mr Ahmadi. “The USA should find the person who did this.”

He said the family is also seeking financial compensation for their losses and demanded several members of the family be relocated to a third country, without specifying which country.

The driver of the targeted vehicle, Zemerai Ahmadi, was a long-time employee at a US humanitarian organisation. The missile struck as the car was pulling into the family’s driveway and the children ran to greet him.

On Friday, US Marine General Frank McKenzie, head of US Central Command, called the strike a “tragic mistake” and, after weeks of denials, said innocent civilians were indeed killed in the attack and not an Islamic State extremist, as was announced earlier.

The drone strike followed a suicide bombing by the Islamic State group — a rival of the Taliban — that killed 169 Afghans and 13 US military personnel at one of the gates to the Kabul airport.

For days, desperate Afghans had swarmed the checkpoints outside the airport, trying to leave the country amid the chaotic Nato withdrawal, fearing for their future under the Taliban.

McKenzie apologised for the error and said the US is considering making reparation payments to the family of the victims.

Emal Ahmadi, who said he heard of the apology from friends in America, insisted it won’t bring back members of his family. While he expressed relief for the apology and recognition his family were innocent victims, he said he was frustrated it took weeks of pleading with Washington to at least call the family.

Looking exhausted, sitting in front of the charred ruins of Zemerai’s car, Mr Ahmadi said he wanted more than an apology, he wanted justice, including an investigation into who carried out the strike — “and I want him punished by the USA”.

In the days before the Pentagon’s apology, accounts from the family, documents from colleagues and the scene at the family home all sharply contradicted the accounts by the US military. Instead they painted the picture of a family that had worked for Americans and were trying to gain visas to the US.

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Zemerai was the family’s breadwinner and 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.  

He wondered how the family’s home could have been mistaken for an Islamic State hideout, adding: “The USA can see from everywhere. They can see that there were innocent children near the car and in the car. Whoever did this should be punished.” 


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