Relatives of Kabul family killed in US drone strike threaten legal action

Members of the Ahmadi family pray next to the graves of their relatives who were killed in a US drone strike, in Kabul, on Monday. (AP)
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Updated 14 September 2021

Relatives of Kabul family killed in US drone strike threaten legal action

KABUL: It’s been more than two weeks since a US drone strike killed Zamari Ahmadi, an Afghan engineer working for an American aid group, and nine members of his family, including seven children, after he returned home from work in a residential neighborhood of Kabul.
But a dark cloud continues to hang over surviving members of the Ahmadi family since the Aug. 29 raid when the US fired its last-known missile in its recently ended 20-year war in Afghanistan.
The drone struck Zamari’s car after he had parked it in a compound of the Khoja Boghra locality where he lived with his brothers and their families, killing him, three of his children aged between 11 and 20, and nephews and nieces instantly.
His brother, Aimal, who lost his three-year-old daughter in the attack, is now seeking justice, incensed that his family was wrongly targeted and demanding that the US “must pay compensation” or face legal action.
“On that horrible and black day, my brother had just returned from his job. I had gone out to buy groceries and was on my way back when I heard a loud sound and saw thick black smoke in the area. I couldn’t believe my family had been killed,” Aimal told Arab News.
“We are destroyed. Those who carried out this attack and killed our loved ones must now be punished. America must pay compensation to my family,” he said.
US military officials have maintained that the purpose of the “self-defense” strike was to eliminate “an imminent Daesh-K threat,” referring to Daesh-Khorasan, an affiliate of the militant group, similar to an attack at Kabul airport, killing 13 US service members and 169 Afghans, three days earlier.
On Sept. 1, an hour after the attack, General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, called it a “righteous strike” that correctly followed procedures, telling a press conference: “One of those killed in the drone strike was carrying a vehicle loaded with explosives.”
Officials said that the decision was based on hours of surveillance of Zamari’s car, which allegedly contained a bomb, and was meant to weaken Daesh’s ability to disrupt the final phases of Washington’s chaotic evacuation efforts ahead of the Aug. 31 deadline as thousands rushed to escape the Taliban after their capture of Kabul on Aug. 15.
To Aimal, however, claims that his brother was a potential Daesh suicide bomber are infuriating.
He said that Zamari, 37, who had worked for California-based aid group Nutrition and Education International (NEI) since 2006, was a “law-abiding citizen” who, along with their nephew, Nasir Haideri, had applied for the US Special Immigrant Visas which were being processed at the time of the strike.
The SIVs are granted to Afghans who worked for US troops in Afghanistan in the past two decades.
Aimal said that Nasir, who died in the attack, was to be married in the first week of September and start a new life in America.
He also rejected reports of “explosives” in Zamari’s car, demanding proof and disputing official claims.
“They were water containers which he had brought home from the office as we are facing a shortage of water. He filled them at his office and would bring them home. All the evidence is contrary to the false claims of the Americans,” Aimal said.
“We will file a lawsuit. Washington must provide proof that Zamari was carrying a car full of explosives,” he said, adding that US officials “have not established contact with their family yet.”
Zamari’s son, Samim, who survived the attack, said that they “will continue to wait.”
“Because of the (political) situation in the country, we have not yet seen any communication from US officials. We are waiting for a call, and we want justice,” he told Arab News.
Experts, however, warned that the law may not be on the Ahmadis’ side.
“This incident cannot be prosecuted according to the Afghanistan law,” Abdul Wahid Farzayee, a legal expert based in Kabul, told Arab News.
“It’s because the country is facing a political gap. So now, the family should ask the international community and the United Nations for compensation. They must not forget that this incident took place when the US was leaving, and they are not responsible,” he said.
US-led foreign troops completed their withdrawal from Afghanistan on Aug. 31, ending Washington’s longest conflict after two decades of occupation in the country.
The Taliban have since cemented their control over Afghanistan, announcing their interim government last week, with more ministries to be announced soon.
But Abdul Haseeb Rahmat, an independent legal expert, said that the Ahmadis could seek recourse through other channels.
“For such incidents, the US is credible and has a special fund,” he told Arab News.
“They must fulfill their obligations. The incident should be followed by the human rights groups and the ICC because it is a clear violation of humanitarian law,” Rahmat said.
In the past few days, the US military said that it had launched investigations into the incident, while on Monday, The New York Times reported that Washington had mistakenly targeted the Ahmadi family.
It based its report on “extensive video analysis, interviews with Ahmadi’s colleagues and family, and visits to the scene,” casting considerable doubt on Washington’s official version of events.
The US military has reportedly erred in drone strikes in Afghanistan in the past. In 2008, 47 civilians, including 39 women and children, were killed as they traveled to a wedding.

At least ten Niger soldiers killed in militant attack

Updated 59 min 30 sec ago

At least ten Niger soldiers killed in militant attack

  • Islamist militants have stepped up their attacks amid the power struggles in some countries in the Sahel region, with Niger as the latest to be hit by a coup

NIAMEY: At least ten Niger soldiers were killed in an attack by militants in the country’s southwest on Thursday morning, three security sources told Reuters.

The attack took place about 190 km (118 miles) from the capital Niamey in Kandadji, near the tri-border zone of Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger that has been the epicenter of Islamist insurgencies in the Sahel region in the last few years.
The sources including a senior military officer, who requested anonymity because they are not authorized to speak to the media, did not say which group was responsible. Local affiliates of Al-Qaeda and Islamic State are active in the region and wage frequent attacks on soldiers and civilians.
Two security sources said the army responded to the attack with ground troops as well as helicopters, one of which was hit but was able to return to its base.
Niger is run by a military junta that seized power in a coup in July, partly out of discontent at the worsening security situation. Neighbouring Mali and Burkina Faso have each had two coups in the last three years.
However, security analysts say attacks had been falling in Niger under ousted President Mohamed Bazoum, who had tried to engage with Islamists and the rural communities where they are rooted.
At least 17 soldiers were killed in another attack in southwestern Niger in mid-August.
France said on Sunday it would withdraw its 1,500 troops from Niger before the end of the year, after weeks of pressure from the junta and popular demonstrations against the former colonial ruler, which had forces there to fight the insurgents.
On Thursday, several hundred pro-junta supporters gathered again in front of the French military base in the capital Niamey to demand that the troops leave.

Germany, Israel sign ‘historic’ missile shield deal

Updated 28 September 2023

Germany, Israel sign ‘historic’ missile shield deal

  • Worth around $3.5 billion (€3.3 billion), the sale is the biggest ever deal for Israel’s military industry

BERLIN: Germany on Thursday signed a deal to acquire the Israeli-made Arrow 3 hypersonic missile system that will become a key part of Europe’s defense against air attack.

The signing of the deal was a “historic day” for both countries, German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius said at a press conference alongside his Israeli counterpart Yoav Gallant.

Worth around $3.5 billion (€3.3 billion), the sale is the biggest ever deal for Israel’s military industry.

The Arrow 3 system would make “German air defense ready for the future,” Pistorius said.

Germany has led a push to bolster NATO’s air defenses in Europe, urging allies to buy deterrence systems together.

“We can see with the daily Russian attacks on Ukraine how important anti-air defense is,” Pistorius said.

“Only 80 years since the end of the Second World War yet Israel and Germany join hands today in building a safer future,” he said.

The long-range Arrow 3 system, designed to shoot down missiles above the Earth’s atmosphere, is powerful enough to offer protective cover for neighboring EU states.

The system was developed and produced by Israel and the US and the sale had to be approved by Washington before it could be finalized.

The system was first deployed at an Israeli air force base in 2017 and has been used to protect Israel against attacks from Iran and Syria.

Arrow 3 is a “mobile system” that can be deployed depending on the threats faced, according to manufacturer Israel Aerospace Industries.

The money for the deal comes from a landmark €100-billion fund unveiled by Chancellor Olaf Scholz to bolster the country’s defenses in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

More than a dozen European countries have so far signed up to Germany’s common air defense project, the European Sky Shield Initiative.

The Sky Shield project would involve joint procurement for short-, medium- and long-range systems, including the German-made Iris-T, the American Patriot system and Arrow 3.

Some of Germany’s neighbors have however so far declined to sign up to the pact, including France and Poland.

Officials in Paris have argued instead for an air defense system using European equipment.

Berlin has said it expects the Arrow 3 system to be delivered in the final quarter of 2025.

Three killed in twin Dutch shootings

Updated 28 September 2023

Three killed in twin Dutch shootings

  • Dutch police said they were still investigating the motive for the twin attacks by the 32-year-old man
  • The man first burst into a house in the Dutch port city and opened fire, killing a 39-year-old woman and seriously injuring her 14-year-old daughter

ROTTERDAM, Netherlands: A gunman dressed in combat gear and wearing a bulletproof vest went on a shooting rampage at a house and a hospital in Rotterdam Thursday, killing a 14-year-old girl, her mother and a teacher.
Dutch police said they were still investigating the motive for the twin attacks by the 32-year-old man, who also set fire to the hospital and the house.
The man first burst into a house in the Dutch port city and opened fire, killing a 39-year-old woman and seriously injuring her 14-year-old daughter, police chief Fred Westerbeke told reporters. The girl later died of her injuries.
He then moved to a classroom at the Erasmus MC university hospital, shooting dead a 46-year-old teacher before starting another fire in the facility, sparking panic.
Elite police stormed the hospital, as panicked medical staff in white coats flooded out of the building pushing patients in wheelchairs and on stretchers.
He was taken into custody shortly afterwards and chief public prosecutor Hugo Hillenaar told reporters the suspect was cooperating with police following his arrest.
“We cannot say anything about the motive of this terrible act at this time. The probe is still ongoing,” said Hillenaar.
The suspect was thought to have possessed only one firearm and there is no indication he had accomplices, authorities said.
Police said the suspect, a student at the hospital, was already known to the authorities over a conviction for animal cruelty.
An investigation is underway as to whether he was a student of the teacher shot dead. Authorities believe that the woman and her daughter were close neighbors of the suspect, leading Westerbeke to suggest they were “targeted attacks.”
He had earlier been described as tall, with black hair, wearing “combat-style” clothes and carrying a backpack.
“I am angry and sad,” said Rotterdam mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb, who spoke of a “black day” for his city.
“We have been shocked by a horrific incident... the emotion in the city is running high,” the mayor told reporters.
Witnesses described the chaotic scenes around the hospital, as helicopters buzzed overhead, and police snipers took up positions on the hospital roof.
“First there was a shooting on the fourth floor. Four or five shots were fired. Then a Molotov cocktail was thrown into the education center,” said a medical student quoted by RTL Nieuws, who did not give his name.
“There was a lot of panic and screaming... I didn’t hear any shots, just the panic and that’s what I started to act on,” public broadcaster NOS cited another eyewitness as saying.
Prime Minister Mark Rutte spoke of his “great dismay” at the shootings.
“My thoughts go out to the victims of the violence, their loved ones and all those who have been hugely scared,” he added in a statement on X, formerly Twitter.
King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima said their hearts went out to those suffering “intense grief.”
“It’s unbelievable,” said Rotterdam GP Matthijs van der Poel, cited on the Algemeen Dagblad website.
“Everyone is totally shocked by the events and is watching the news with horror. I’m afraid such things cannot be prevented,” he said.
Rotterdam is often the scene of shootings, usually attributed to score settling by rival drug gangs.
In 2019, three people were shot dead on a tram in Utrecht, sparking a huge manhunt.
And in 2011, the country was left shocked when 24-year-old Tristan van der Vlis killed six people and wounded 10 others in a rampage at a packed shopping mall.

Canada PM says he is sure Blinken will raise murder case with India

Updated 28 September 2023

Canada PM says he is sure Blinken will raise murder case with India

  • Blinken is due to meet Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar on Thursday
  • New Delhi has told Canada it was open to looking into any “specific” information on the killing

OTTAWA: Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Thursday he was sure US Secretary of State Antony Blinken would raise the murder of a Sikh separatist leader with his Indian counterpart when the two meet later in the day.

Trudeau made his remarks to reporters in Quebec, 10 days after he announced Canada suspected Indian government agents were linked to the murder of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, which took place in the province of British Columbia in June.

Blinken is due to meet Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar on Thursday. Asked directly whether Blinken would bring up the case, Trudeau replied: “The Americans will certainly discuss this matter with the Indian government.”

India has dismissed Canada’s allegations as absurd. Jaishankar though said on Tuesday that New Delhi has told Canada it was open to looking into any “specific” or “relevant” information it provides on the killing.

Serbia opens ‘smart’ police station using UAE expertise

Updated 28 September 2023

Serbia opens ‘smart’ police station using UAE expertise

  • High-tech facility will offer 24/7 security and community services

LONDON: Serbia has opened its first “smart” police station, drawing on the technological expertise of the UAE, Emirates News Agency reported on Thursday.

The initiative was inspired by the success of Dubai Police’s smart police stations, which offer 24/7 security and community services without human intervention.

The new high-tech police facility is part of the UAE and Serbia’s collaboration and exchanging of expertise in security, policing and crime prevention.

Bratislav Gasic, Serbia’s interior minister, praised the UAE for its support in establishing the police station, highlighting it as a testament to the growing ties between the two countries.

Lt. Gen. Abdullah Khalifa Al-Marri, commander-in-chief of Dubai Police, said the venture is part of the UAE’s strategic efforts to strengthen its international partnerships in line with the vision of Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum.

“Our shared objective is to transform Serbian police stations, combining Emirati innovation and Serbian security expertise. These smart police stations will provide various services in multiple languages 24/7 without human intervention, mirroring the SPS in Dubai,” he said.