A new report contradicts key points of the Biden administration’s narrative concerning an Aug. 29 drone strike that U.S. officials allegedly thought killed terrorists, but appears to have killed only innocent civilians.
An investigation conducted by The New York Times indicates that what President Joe Biden’s commanders thought was a man loading bombs into a car was instead Zemari Ahmadi putting canisters of water into his vehicle. Ahmadi was among the 10 people killed in the strike, including seven children.
According to The Washington Post, experts looking at photographic evidence believe military planners drew the wrong conclusions that day.
U.S. Central Command initially said in an Aug. 29 statement, “We are confident we successfully hit the target. Significant secondary explosions from the vehicle indicated the presence of a substantial amount of explosive material.”
Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, later called the attack “a righteous strike.”
Ahmadi, 43, was an electrical engineer for Nutrition and Education International, a U.S.-based aid group.
On the day he was killed, surveillance drones watched Ahmadi as he picked up co-workers from their homes and a laptop computer from the home of his boss, the Times reported.
The Times noted that U.S. officials said there were communications between the car and an alleged Islamic State group safe house. The outlet reported those who were in the car at one time said it was simply a normal workday.
A security guard the Times did not name said he had filled the containers with water before leaving his place of work.
“I filled the containers myself, and helped him load them into the trunk,” the guard said.
It was around this time U.S. officials said they believed explosives were loaded into the car.
The decision was made to launch a Hellfire missile from a Reaper drone at Ahmadi’s car. There was only one man greeting the vehicle, although within moments of his arrival in the courtyard of his home, several children ran to greet him.
After the initial explosion, U.S. officials said there was a secondary blast.
In its report, the Times said experts who reviewed images and footage from that day said there were “no collapsed or blown-out walls, no destroyed vegetation, and only one dent in the entrance gate, indicating a single shock wave.”
“It seriously questions the credibility of the intelligence or technology utilized to determine this was a legitimate target,” said Chris Cobb-Smith, a security consultant and British Army veteran.
Ferenc Dalnoki-Veress, an explosives expert with the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, told the Post that after examining photographic evidence, he also ruled out a secondary explosion.
“My theory is: The [Hellfire] explosives themselves ruptured the gas tank, released the vapor, and because of the fire that happened a short time afterward, it detonated and caused something that may have been explosion-like,” he said.
The Post also quoted Brian Castner, a former Air Force bomb technician who conducts post-blast assessments, as saying he believes there was no secondary explosion.
“I can’t prove that there was no explosives in the car at all,” Castner said. “All the evidence that I see is consistent with the first blast being the Hellfire, and the second blast being just the car burning or related to the gas or oil. I’m not seeing evidence of the second blast being significant.”
The Times report said that at the time of his death, Ahmadi was trying to resettle his family in America.
“All of them were innocent,” Emal, Ahmadi’s brother, said. “You say he was ISIS, but he worked for the Americans.”