Relatives reject the US apology over the killing of 10 civilians in a drone strike last month in Kabul and urge the global community to hold Washington accountable under international law.
Relatives of 10 civilians killed by a US drone strike in the Afghan capital last month have rejected Washington's condolences and apologies, calling the attack a "war crime" and demanding justice under international law.
"How can this [US apology] be accepted?" said Romal Ahmadi, who lost all three of his children, including a nursing infant, as well as his brother told Anadolu Agency on Saturday.
"The US killed innocent people ... they should come to me and apologise and offer condolences."
His elder brother "was inside the house when a missile slammed into the vehicle, destroying everything," he said, adding, "he doesn't feel safe in the country".
Zamari Ahmadi, the humanitarian worker whose vehicle was targeted inside his home in Kabul on August 29, was suspected by the US military of having ties to Daesh-Khorasan (or Daesh-K).
They have not removed anything from the house since a US drone struck his vehicle with a hellfire missile, Ahmadi's uncle Mohammad Nasim told Anadolu Agency on Saturday, showing the destroyed vehicles and the damaged house.
"This is unacceptable to us," Nasim said, asking the US to "acknowledge it as a war crime."
The Afghan man killed in a US drone strike in Kabul was a beloved longtime employee at an American humanitarian organisation and not a Daesh militant as claimed by the Pentagon, his colleagues say pic.twitter.com/pbAVwBKYv6— TRT World (@trtworld) September 17, 2021
On Friday, the US apologised for what it called a "tragic mistake".
The Pentagon had said the August 29 strike targeted a Daesh-K suicide bomber who posed an imminent threat to US-led troops at the airport as they completed the last stages of their withdrawal from Afghanistan.
The strike took place three days after Daesh-K carried out multiple suicide bombings on Kabul's international airport that left more than 150 people dead, including many US soldiers and scores of Afghans seeking to flee the country following its Taliban takeover.
Even as reports of civilian casualties emerged immediately, US described the drone attack as "righteous".
The killing of civilians, in a strike, carried out by a drone controlled from outside Afghanistan, has raised questions about the future of US "counter-terrorism" strikes in the country, where intelligence gathering has been all but choked off since last month's withdrawal.
In a statement, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said the drone strike had killed a Mr Ahmadi who worked for a non-profit called Nutrition and Education International.
"We now know that there was no connection between Mr. Ahmadi and ISIS-Khorasan [Daesk-K], that his activities on that day were completely harmless and not at all related to the imminent threat we believed we faced," Austin said in the statement.
"We apologise, and we will endeavor to learn from this horrible mistake."
While it is rare for senior Pentagon officials, including the defence secretary, to apologise personally for civilians killed in military strikes, the US military does publish reports on civilians killed in operations around the world.
The Pentagon is "exploring the possibility" of making reparation payments to the victims' families, and is "very interested in doing that," top US general Frank McKenzie said on Friday.
Pentagon admits that 10 innocent civilians were killed by an American drone strike in Kabul just days before US military’s complete withdrawal from Afghanistan pic.twitter.com/spOELM81pJ— TRT World (@trtworld) September 18, 2021
War crime case against US sought
On Saturday, families of the victims killed in the strike said Washington is yet to approach them since the drone attack.
The US has failed to contact the family, and while it has now issued an apology, "those who were lost cannot come back, and accepting the mistake cannot be accepted," Nasim said.
He urged the international community to hold those responsible for the killings of innocent people accountable under international law.
"Killing innocent people is a war crime," Abdul Aziz Shoiab, a judge appointed by the former Ashraf Ghani administration said.
He said the international community could initiate a war crime case against individuals who were part of the attack on innocent people.
"They must come here and apologise to us face-to-face," Ahmadi's 22-year-old nephew, Farshad Haidari, told AFP news agency in a bombed-out, modest house in Kwaja Burga, a densely populated neighbourhood in the northwest of the Afghan capital.
Haidari, whose brother Naser and young cousins also died, said the US had made no direct contact with the family.
"They must come and compensate," he said. "They were not terrorists, and now it is clear for them and all the world to see," he said of his relatives.
Haidari added that he wanted officials to "capture and prosecute" those responsible for firing the missile.
"Most of them had worked with Americans," Haidari said. "Naser had worked with Americans for about 10 years. My uncle had also worked with international organisations."
Ahmadi's brother Aimal, whose three-year-old daughter Maleka died in the attack, said "America must compensate".
"Today it was good news for us that the United States officially admitted that they had attacked innocents civilians," he said. "Our innocence has been proven."
"We demand justice from international institutions ... then we want compensation."