When Ezmarai Ahmadi returned home from work on Sunday evening in Kabul, the usual gaggle of squealing children were waiting to greet him — his sons and daughters, and a slew of nieces and nephews.
He pulled his white sedan into the driveway of a modest house in Kwaja Burga, a densely populated neighbourhood in the northwest of the Afghan capital, and handed the keys to his eldest son to park.
Youngsters piled into the vehicle — pretending the parking routine was an adventure — while Ezmarai watched from the side.
Then out of the blue Afghan sky, a missile came screeching down — striking the car with a terrible force and obliterating the lives of 10 people in an instant.
The United States said Sunday it had destroyed an explosive-laden vehicle in an air strike, thwarting a bid by the Islamic State to detonate a car bomb at Kabul airport.
On Monday, it looked as if they could have made a terrible mistake.
“The rocket came and hit the car full of kids inside our house,” said Aimal Ahmadi, Ezmarai’s brother. “It killed all of them.”
Aimal said 10 members of the family died in the air strike — including his own daughter and five other children.
Aimal can scarcely believe his brother could be mistaken for an Islamic State sympathiser, let alone an operative planning a deadly car bomb attack.
Ezmarai was an engineer working with a non-governmental organisation — an ordinary Afghan trying to make ends meet in a turbulent time.
“We would be deeply saddened by any potential loss of innocent life,” a US spokesman said in the statement.
But those words rang hollow for another neighbour, Rashid Noori.
“The Taliban kill us, IS kill us and the Americans kill us,” he said. “Do they all think our children are terrorists?”