To his family and colleagues at a US nonprofit, 43-year-old Zamarai Ahmadi was an aid worker applying for a US visa to get his family out of Taliban-controlled Afghanistan.
In the two weeks since US drone operatives fired a Hellfire missile at a car in a residential Kabul compound, two vastly different narratives have emerged about the man who his family say died alongside nine relatives.
The Pentagon maintains at least one ISIS-K facilitator was killed in what Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Mark Milley called a “righteous strike” on the compound on August 29.
In a statement, US Central Command pointed to “significant secondary explosions” as evidence of a “substantial amount of explosive material” in the vehicle. A US official with knowledge of the operation told CNN Thursday that operatives tracked the car for about eight hours before initiating the strike.
But CNN interviews with two explosive experts and more than two dozen of Ahmadi’s relatives, colleagues and neighbors raise questions about whether an ISIS-K facilitator was killed in the attack and whether the car contained explosives.
Their accounts also prompt doubts over whether the military had sufficient intelligence to launch a strike that, according to family, would ultimately kill three men with visa pathways to the US and seven children aged 15 and under.
In the days leading up to the strike, tensions in the Afghan capital were high.
An ISIS-K suicide attacker had detonated his vest outside a gate at Hamid Karzai International Airport three days before, killing at least 170 people and 13 US service members. And an August 31 deadline was fast approaching for the US and its allies to complete their evacuation of increasingly desperate people from the airport.
After the attack, US President Joe Biden was firm: “We will not forgive. We will not forget. We will hunt you down and make you pay.
“We will respond with force and precision at our time, at a place we choose and at a moment of our choosing.”