Kabul Drone Strike: The Key Questions About A US Attack


By Reality Check team
BBC News

image sourceGetty Images

image captionLocal people told journalists there’d been only one blast from the missile

A US drone strike on 29 August just north of Kabul airport, which killed several members of the same family, has left a number of unanswered questions.

The US military says it acted based on intelligence of what it called a “very specific threat” from the local affiliate of Islamic State group (IS), and says it’s now investigating the incident.

Accounts given to journalists by local people have contradicted claims by US officials about the attack.

What’s the US explanation for the strike?

The US says it targeted a vehicle linked to the Afghanistan branch of IS, in order to eliminate “an imminent… threat to Hamid Karzai International airport.” It claims there were “secondary” explosions after the initial strike on the car, indicating they’d hit the right target.

A US Central Command statement on 29 August – the day of the strike – talked of “substantial and powerful subsequent explosions… [which] indicated a substantial amount of explosive material [in the vehicle].” The next day, Defense Department spokesman John Kirby said they were certain there were secondary blasts after the initial hit.

But when asked how he knew, he would not say.

At the same briefing, General Hank Taylor told journalists they were confident the subsequent blast or blasts were caused by material intended for use in an attack – rather than by a gas cylinder or something else exploding.

Three days earlier – on 26 August – more than 100 civilians and 13 US troops had died in a suicide attack near the airport, which was claimed by a local branch of the Islamic State group.

What do local people say about the attack?

The location of the drone strike is in a heavily built-up part of Kabul called Khaje Bughra, near the airport. Relatives and neighbours in the area have disputed the justification for the strike, telling journalists that US intelligence was wrong, and that there was no Islamic State presence in the area.

They say six children were among the victims of the attack, which happened as a member of the Ahmadi family was parking a car outside their home.

BBC journalists visited the site afterwards, and one of them – Malik Mudassir – told us that people he’d spoken to in the neighbourhood said they had not heard other blasts after the initial strike on the car.

media captionEmal Ahmadi: “Ten people died here.. including my daughter. She was two years old”

Journalists from other media organisations who visited the area and spoke to Ahmadi family members, were told that a missile went through the car and detonated in the ground below. They were also told there was only one explosion, and that a vehicle parked nearby had been partly burnt in the blast.

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Written by Joseph