The Pentagon on Friday identified three of the four Americans killed in a suicide bombing in northern Syria, including the first woman US service member to be killed in the fight against ISIS.
Navy Chief Petty Officer Shannon Kent, a 35-year-old signals intelligence linguist and mother of two, was killed in the attack on a busy restaurant in the US-patrolled town of Manbij, Syria.
She could communicate in more than half a dozen languages, was a cancer survivor, and lobbied Congress on behalf of US service members, according to Stars and Stripes, a military news outlet. She had served in the US Navy since 2003, was assigned to Cryptologic Warfare Activity 66, one of the military’s most secretive units, and was based at Fort Meade, Maryland, which is also where the National Security Agency is located.
“She was a rock star, an outstanding chief petty officer, and leader to many in the Navy Information Warfare Community,” Cmdr. Joseph Harrison, the commanding officer of her unit, said in a statement.
The governor of her home state, New York, Andrew Cuomo, ordered the flags on state government buildings to be flown at half-staff in honor of her “selfless dedication and sacrifice.”
More than 80 women serving in the US military have been killed in action since Sept. 11, 2001, according to data compiled by the Women in Military Service for America Memorial. More than 1,000 women service members have been wounded in action in the post-9/11 wars, according to Defense Department data analyzed by the Congressional Research Service.
The last time a woman US service member died in combat was in December 2015; Air Force Maj. Adrianna Vorderbruggen was killed in a suicide attack in Afghanistan.
The Pentagon identified the other US service member as 37-year-old Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jonathan Farmer.
An Army Green Beret and father of four from Boynton Beach, Florida, Farmer had served on six overseas combat tours in his 13 years in the US Army.
A Defense Department civilian, 42-year-old Scott Wirtz, a former SEAL from St. Louis, was also killed in the attack. He’d previously served in the US Navy for 10 years and was assigned to the Defense Intelligence Agency as an operations support specialist.
While the fourth American, a contractor, was not named by the US military, her family has identified her as 27-year-old Ghadir Taher, who was serving as an Arabic interpreter. Originally from Syria, she had immigrated with her family to East Point, Georgia, and became a US citizen.
The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack, which also killed five members of the US-allied Syrian Democratic Forces and at least 10 civilians, according to local reports.
The group was eating at the restaurant near a busy market after a meeting with local officials when the attacker detonated the bomb, according to US Central Command.
President Donald Trump tweeted Saturday morning that he was travelling to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware to honor the victims.
The attack came less than a month after he announced he was withdrawing US troops from Syria, where he repeatedly claimed ISIS has been defeated.
US military and local officials have warned that Trump’s decision to withdraw US troops could threaten US-led efforts to kill and capture ISIS members and allow them to regroup.
Military officials said the incident is under investigation.
The name of the Syrian Democratic Forces was misstated in an earlier version of this post.