‘Horrible mistake’: US admits air strike killed only Afghan civilians

Washington: The US military has admitted that a high-profile drone strike in Afghanistan last month killed as many as 10 civilians – including seven children – rather than an Islamic State extremist as initially announced.

The Pentagon had previously maintained that at least one member of the ISIS-K terrorist group and three civilians were killed in the strike, which was launched after an ISIS-K suicide bomber killed 13 US troops at the gate of Kabul Airport.

Frank McKenzie, Commander of US Central Command, revealed an internal review found that only civilians were killed in the attack, not an Islamic State extremist as first believed.Credit:AP

General Mark Milley, the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, initially called the August 29 attack a “righteous strike”.

But in a briefing on Saturday (AEST) the head of the US Central Command Kenneth McKenzie said that, following an investigation, he now believed it was unlikely that those who died were terrorists or posed a threat to US forces at Kabul’s airport.

“I offer my profound condolences,” McKenzie told reporters. “It was a mistake and I offer my sincere apology.”

The US military initially believed a car targeted in the strike was loaded with explosives for an imminent attack. It turned out that the driver, Zamarai Ahmadi, was a veteran aid worker for an American non-profit and was hauling water cans for his family.

“We now know that there was no connection between Mr Ahmadi and ISIS-Khorasan, that his activities on that day were completely harmless and not at all related to the imminent threat we believed we faced, and that Mr Ahmadi was just as innocent a victim as were the others tragically killed,” Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a statement.

“We apologise, and we will endeavour to learn from this horrible mistake.”

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