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Condolence Pay in Drone Strik 10/16 06:51


   WASHINGTON (AP) -- The U.S. Defense Department said Friday that it is 
committed to offering condolence payments to relatives of the 10 people who 
were killed in an errant U.S. drone strike in Kabul, Afghanistan, in August.

   Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said in a statement that the Defense 
Department was also working with the State Department to help surviving family 
members relocate to the United States.

   Kirby said the matter arose in a meeting Thursday between Dr. Colin Kahl, 
under secretary of defense for policy, and Dr. Steven Kwon, founder and 
president of the nonprofit group Nutrition & Education International.

   "Dr. Kahl reiterated Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin's commitment to the 
families, including offering ex gratia condolence payments," Kirby said. He did 
not say how much money would be offered.

   On Aug. 29, a U.S. Hellfire missile struck a car driven by Zemerai Ahmadi, 
who had just pulled into the driveway of the Ahmadi family compound. In all, 10 
members of the family, including seven children, were killed in the strike.

   Weeks later, Marine Gen. Frank McKenzie, head of U.S. Central Command, 
called the strike a "tragic mistake" and said innocent civilians were indeed 
killed in the attack.

   During the meeting Thursday, Kwon told Kahl that Ahmadi had work with NEI 
for many years, "providing care and lifesaving assistance for people facing 
high mortality rates in Afghanistan," according to Kirby.

   The U.S. military initially defended the strike, saying it had targeted an 
Islamic State group's "facilitator" and disrupted the militants' ability to 
carry out attacks during the chaotic final stage of the withdrawal of U.S. and 
NATO troops from Afghanistan.

   Discrepancies between the military's portrayal of the strike and findings on 
the ground quickly emerged. The Associated Press and other news organizations 
reported that the driver of the targeted vehicle was a longtime employee at a 
U.S. humanitarian organization. There were no signs of a large secondary blast, 
despite the Pentagon's assertion that the vehicle contained explosives.

   The drone strike followed a devastating suicide bombing by an Islamic State 
offshoot that killed 169 Afghans and 13 U.S. military personnel at one of the 
gates to the Kabul airport in late August.

   Last month, McKenzie said the United States was considering making 
reparation payments to the family of the drone strike victims.

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