AL-DARBASIYAH, Syria — Ahmed Abed Al Khani Salam, the 11-year-old son of impoverished farmers from rural Tell Hamis in Kurdish-run northeast Syria, had big dreams. In September 2022, he began working in a popular roadside supermarket on the main road running from the Iraqi border to the area’s informal capital, Qamishli. “Mama, I will rise to become a manager here. I will earn and send you more money. Believe me,” the boy would tell his mother over the phone after bookkeeping lessons from the store’s accountant. “He was bright, hardworking and big-hearted,” recalled the shop’s owner, Ari Ahmed Abdurrahman, on a recent afternoon.
Four months later, little Ahmed lay lifeless in a pool of blood near the shop’s cash register, yet another victim of Turkey’s deadly drone attacks on alleged terrorists in northeast Syria.
Video footage of the strike on Jan. 18, captured by the Ari Market’s multiple security cameras, documents the full horror of that moment. A man is seen settling his bill with Abdurrahman. Within seconds, another man — the customer’s brother who is carrying a little girl and holding a second one’s hand — walks through the door. They fall to the ground as the floor shakes and black smoke fills the shop.
A split second prior, a pickup truck exploded into a ball of fire as it pulled up beside the supermarket. Both passengers, the intended targets, died in the blast. “The customer was buying ice cream and potato chips for his nieces. He was 40 years old. He died together with the child Ahmed right before my eyes,” Abdurrahman told Al-Monitor.