A deadly blast, as recounted by an Afghan family and the U.S. military

Caskets for the dead are carried toward the gravesite as relatives and friends attend a mass funeral for members of a family.
Caskets for the dead are carried toward a gravesite Monday as relatives and friends attend a mass funeral for members of a family that is said to have been killed in a U.S. drone strike in Kabul, Afghanistan. The U.S. military said the possibility of civilian casualties was under investigation.
(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
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During the nearly 20-year American military mission in Afghanistan, Afghan civilians have borne the brunt of the fighting. By independent estimates, more than 71,000 noncombatants have been killed in the war zone they call home.

Almost always, these searing episodes generate a tangle of contradictory claims — a pattern that persisted as the clock ticked down on the last hours of the U.S. presence on the ground in Kabul.

Here is a look at some of the principal assertions surrounding Sunday’s U.S. drone strike near the Kabul airport.

FROM FAMILY AND WITNESSES:

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Relatives and neighbors on Monday told Los Angeles Times journalists at the scene — a working-class neighborhood west of Hamid Karzai International Airport — that a massive explosion rocked the family’s home just as Zemari Ahmadi, a 40-year-old husband and father, was arriving home from work about 4:30 on Sunday afternoon. Children had run to greet him as his Toyota Corolla was pulling into the garage, they said, and were caught up in the explosion. Ahmadi and at least nine others died, seven of them children, including five aged 5 or younger, according to the relatives’ accounts. An empty family vehicle was also incinerated.

Relatives, who blamed the United States for the deaths, said they had heard a drone buzzing nearby shortly before the blast.

Relatives and neighbors of the Ahmadi family gathered around the incinerated husk of a vehicle.
Relatives and neighbors of the Ahmadi family gathered Monday around the incinerated husk of a vehicle hit Sunday in Kabul, Afghanistan.
(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

FROM THE U.S. MILITARY:

The first official confirmation of the episode came from the U.S. Central Command, or CENTCOM, which announced that Sunday’s strike had hit its intended target, an explosives-laden vehicle carrying would-be suicide bombers from the Afghan affiliate of the militant group Islamic State was hit. A spokesman, U.S. Navy Capt. Bill Urban, initially said there were no indications Afghan civilians were killed or wounded.

In a subsequent statement, Urban said the Pentagon was aware of reports of civilian casualties and was investigating. “We would be deeply saddened by any potential loss of innocent life,” he said.

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A relative throws himself on a casket.
A relative on Monday throws himself over the casket of Farzad Ahmadi, 12, who the family says was killed by a U.S. drone strike in Kabul, Afghanistan.
(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

On Monday morning, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told a briefing that the U.S. military was “not in a position to dispute” multiple news accounts of civilian casualties. At the same briefing, however, Maj. Gen. William “Hank” Taylor continued to insist that the strike had successfully targeted Islamic State operatives. He said the possibility of civilian casualties was under investigation, suggesting such deaths or injuries would have come from “significant” secondary explosions.

FROM THE TALIBAN:

The militant group, which now controls all of Kabul but the airport, said Monday that the strike had caused civilian casualties. The Taliban, whose commanders have been coordinating with U.S. military authorities in securing the area outside the airport, criticized U.S. officials for failing to give the group prior notice of the attack. Spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid, speaking to China’s state television, put the civilian death toll at seven.

A crowd prays near caskets laid on the ground
Islamic prayers are recited Monday as around 200 people attend a mass funeral for 10 members of a family that says they were killed by a U.S. drone strike in Kabul, Afghanistan. The U.S. military said the reports of civilian casualties were under investigation.
(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)