Ten civilians – including several children – were killed in a US drone strike targeting a vehicle in a residential area of Kabul on Sunday, according to The Washington Post, The New York Times, and The Los Angeles Times.
The deceased were from a single extended family and were leaving their car when the strike hit a separate vehicle nearby, The Post said.
The youngest victim was a 2-year-old girl, according to a brother of one of those who were killed, according to CNN.
The brother told CNN that the individuals killed were “an ordinary family,” adding: “We are not ISIS or Daesh and this was a family home – where my brothers lived with their families.”
A neighbor described the harrowing scene in an interview with CNN.
“All the neighbors tried to help and brought water to put out the fire and I saw that there were five or six people dead,” they said to the network. “The father of the family and another young boy and there were two children. They were dead. They were in pieces. There were [also] two wounded.”
Another neighbor told CNN that there could possibly have been up to 20 people who perished in the strike, relaying that “not much is left of their house and nothing can be recognized.”
The US Central Command on Sunday said that the drone strike took out an Islamic State car bomb that posed an “imminent” danger to the Hamid Karzai International Airport, where at least 169 Afghans and 13 US service members were killed last week, marking the deadliest day for US military members in the country since 2011.
Capt. Bill Urban, a spokesperson for US Central Command, said that he was “aware of reports of civilian casualties.”
“We know that there were substantial and powerful subsequent explosions resulting from the destruction of the vehicle, indicating a large amount of explosive material inside that may have caused additional casualties,” he said in a statement. “It is unclear what may have happened, and we are investigating further.”
He added: “We would be deeply saddened by any potential loss of innocent life.”
A US official confirmed that the strike occurred in the Khaje Bughra neighborhood of Kabul, according to the CNN report.
US forces have been working to complete the evacuation of Americans and Afghan allies from the country before the August 31 troop withdrawal deadline, while also facing continued threats of attacks on the Kabul airport.
The war in Afghanistan started in 2001 under then-President George W. Bush in response to the September 11 attacks, but as the years went on and support for the war waned, future presidents – including Barack Obama and Donald Trump – continued to employ drone strikes as part of their fight against terrorism.
According to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, Obama had 10 times more air strikes in the covert war on terror than Bush.
Under Trump, civilian deaths by drones rose exponentially in Afghanistan, according a study from the Costs of War Project at Brown University. In 2019 alone, airstrikes killed 700 civilians in the country.
“There were more weapons dropped from the air in 2018 and 2019 than at the height of US presence in Afghanistan in 2011,” the report noted.