An Iranian-backed Iraqi militia group is being linked to the murder of a U.S. citizen gunned down in Baghdad on Monday. The victim has been identified as 45-year-old Tennessee native Stephen Troell.
At a press conference on Tuesday, Iraq’s Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani condemned the attack and issued a warning to those who may be planning on carrying out violence in the country: “This was a cowardly crime against an American citizen and resident of our country who is known among the community… This is a red line for us. Those who want to test our government in terms of security will fail.” Al-Sudani has been in office since Oct. 28.
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An Iranian-backed armed militia group Saraya Ahl al’Khaf had claimed responsibility for the murder in a statement, calling it “revenge for the killing of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani, commander of the Quds Force, and Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis.”
Soleimani, the former leader of the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), was killed in a drone strike authorized by President Trump in Baghdad in July 2020. Though garnering less attention, Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis was also killed in the attack. As the deputy commander of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces, Al-Muhandis was considered one of the most important military commanders in Iraq.
Bill Roggio, senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, says Iran should be held accountable for the attack on an American abroad. “The militia that carried out this attack, is without a doubt a cutout from one of the larger Iranian-backed Shia militias, such as Asib al Haq or Hezbollah Brigades.” he said, “This follows a pattern of past attacks, where previously unknown groups claim attacks on American interests, and everyone is left wondering who this group is. This is done to provide the larger militias plausible deniability in order to disincentivize retaliatory attacks.”
Roggio warned that the killing of Troell will galvanize supporters of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, a U.S. sanctioned terrorist group. “The killing of an American citizen to avenge these deaths proves to their supporters and those they seek to intimidate that they have a long memory, and they have the means to execute. The militias and the IRGC won’t stop there, they will continue to attempt to target more Americans.”
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Alina Romanowski, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, extended her sympathies to the family in a statement Tuesday on Twitter: “With great sadness, I thank the Iraqi people for their supportive messages following the brutal murder of Stephen Troell last night in Baghdad. He was here in a private capacity doing what he loved – working w/ the Iraqi people. My deepest condolences to his wife & young children.”
Troell’s family released a statement Monday. “Stephen Troell met his Savior face to face. Jocelyn, the girls, and little Stephen are currently safe and will return to the U.S. in the next few days. As you can imagine, these are difficult days for the Troell and Britt family. Please give us time to grieve together as a family. We are grateful for everyone who has reached out to us. Your prayers, love, and kind words have sustained us as God walks with us through the valley of the shadow of death.”
The family’s statement concluded: “Stephen often quoted the words of two Moravian young men who gave their lives for the cause. We echo them again: ‘May the Lamb that was slain receive the reward of His suffering.… weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning” (Psalm 30:5).”
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Troell worked for Millennium Relief and Development Services, an organization affiliated with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), which released a statement on Wednesday, “We are greatly saddened by the tragedy that took the life of our colleague, U.S. citizen, Stephen Troell, near his home in Baghdad, Iraq… Mr. Troell had been working for a local English learning institute, Global English Institute-Baghdad… He will be remembered as a source of great encouragement and will be missed by all who knew him and were touched by his life.”
Fox News’ Ali Kamal contributed to this article from Baghdad.
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