U.S. to pay families of Afghans killed in mistaken drone strike

U.S. to pay families of Afghans killed in mistaken drone strike
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Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said in a statement late Friday that the United States will make “condolence payments” to families of Afghan civilians killed by mistake in U.S. drone strike on August 29. File photo courtesy the U.S. Department of Defense.

Oct. 16 (UPI) — The United States has offered to pay an undisclosed amount to families of 10 Afghans civilians, including seven children, killed in a mistaken drone strike in August, the Pentagon said.”Condolence payments” will go to families of 10 Afghan civilians, including seven children, the Defense Department said in a statement late Friday, The Washington Post and The New York Times reported. The military admitted last month the civilians were mistakenly killed in the strike.

The payment offers were made in a virtual meeting Thursday between Colin H. Kahl, undersecretary of defense for policy, and Steven Kwon, founder and president of Nutrition and Education International, the California-based aid organization that employed Zemari Ahmadi, the driver of the white Toyota sedan that the U.S. drone struck, according to the Times.

The Pentagon statement Friday also said that it was working with the State Department to help families of the victims relocate to the United States.

“Dr. Kahl noted that the strike was a tragic mistake and that Mr. Zemari Ahmadi and others who were killed were innocent victims who bore no blame and were not affiliated with [Islamic State-Khorasan Province] or threats to U.S. forces,” Defense Department spokesman John Kirby said in the statement.

Kirby also said Kwon recounted Ahmadi’s work as an electrical engineer with the non-profit aid group was “providing care and lifesaving assistance for people facing high mortality rates in Afghanistan.”

Congress has authorized the Pentagon to pay up to $3 million in payments to compensate for property damage, personal injury or deaths related to U.S. armed forces actions, along with “hero payments,” to allied forces, such as Afghan troops fighting ISIS.

Though Pentagon officials did not disclose the amount of condolence payments on Friday, they said it would be a topic in future discussions with he aid organization and its lawyers.

Ahmadi, a father of four, who had done charity work with the non-profit to alleviate malnutrition in Afghanistan, had just arrived in his neighborhood west of Kabul’s Karzai Airport when the Hellfire missile from the drone struck his sedan, The Post reported. U.S. military officials tracked his sedan for hours after he left what they thought was an ISIS-K safe house.

The U.S. drone strike in Kabul was meant to target ISIS-K militants, according to the U.S. military.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin III said last month Ahmadi was not linked to the terror group and instead worked for the aid organization.

Austin offered his condolences to the victims’ families and said he hopes the Pentagon will “learn from this horrible mistake.”

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