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U.S. aid worker from Tennessee murdered near his home in Iraq's capital

Iraq American Killed
Iraqi security forces gather outside the morgue of Sheikh Zayed hospital in Baghdad, November 7, 2022 after assailants shot dead an American aid worker in a rare killing of a foreigner in the Iraqi capital in recent years, police officials said. Hadi Mizban/AP

Baghdad — Assailants fatally shot an American aid worker Monday in a rare killing of a foreigner in the Iraqi capital in recent years, U.S. and Iraqi officials said. The man, whom the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad identified as 45-year-old Stephen Edward Troell, a native of Tennessee, was killed by unknown assailants in his car as he drove onto the street where he lived in Baghdad's central Karrada district on the east bank of the Tigris River. 

Police said the man's wife and child were in the car with him but were not hurt.

The motive for the killing was not immediately clear, the officials said, but an unknown group reportedly claimed responsibility on Tuesday, saying it was retaliation for a U.S. airstrike more than two years ago that killed two Iran-linked commanders.

A photo provided by Iraqi security officials shows the vehicle, with its window shattered, in which a U.S. national was driving when he was fatally shot by unknown gunmen in Baghdad, Iraq, November 8, 2022. Handout

The officials said that as Troell drove through his street, another car cut him off and assailants in a third vehicle shot him dead. Iraqi officials later ruled out a kidnapping attempt.

Troell worked for a language center in Baghdad's Harthiya neighborhood and was also reportedly employed by an American non-governmental organization, Millenium Relief and Development Services. The Associated Press reached out to the organization's main country office in the northern province of Dohuk, but local authorities said it had not been operating for two years.

Officials also told the AP the NGO was known to conduct Christian missionary work along with its development activities. The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief media.

Troell's social media profile shows he was a deeply religious and devoted family man, often posting photos with his wife and three young daughters, with a special devotion for the Middle East. In his Twitter biography he described himself as living and serving in the region.

 According to documents seen by The Associated Press, the man had been renting an apartment in Karrada's Wahda area since May last year.

A little known group calling itself the Ahl al-Kahf Brigades issued a claim of responsibility on Tuesday for the murder, according to Iraqi media reports. The group was said to have claimed the attack as retaliation for the killing of senior Iranian military commander General Qassem Soleimani and Iraqi paramilitary commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, who was the deputy head of a pro-Iran group, who were both killed in the same U.S. airstrike at the beginning of 2020.

Iranian Revolutionary Guard commander warns of "future revenge" 02:21

A medical worker at Sheikh Zayed Hospital, where the victim was taken, said he was dead on arrival.
Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani said he would form a committee comprising the interior ministry and various security agencies to "investigate the circumstances of the killing of an American citizen in the capital."
The streets of the middle class, mixed Christian and Muslim neighborhood where Troell reportedly lived were empty of residents but heavily patrolled by police on Monday night.

Such attacks against individuals in the Iraqi capital have been rare since the defeat of the ISIS group in the country in 2017, but rockets are sometimes fired toward the U.S. Embassy. 

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In the early years that followed the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, such attacks were common. In 2004, two Americans were kidnapped in Baghdad and extremists later released videos showing their beheading. 

The attack came after Iraq's new cabinet, headed by Prime Minister al-Sudani, was given a vote of confidence by parliament in late October.  

The country held early elections more than a year ago in response to mass anti-government protests that began in October 2019 in Baghdad and across southern Iraq. Protesters called for the overhaul of the political system established after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.
U.S.-led coalition forces recently ended their combat mission in Iraq but they continue to play an advisory role to Iraqi forces in the fight against ISIS.

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