An American defense contractor, whose killing in Iraq in December has been cited by President Donald Trump amid escalating tensions with Iran, was a linguist who lived with his wife and two young sons in Sacramento, California.
Nawres Hamid, 33, an emigrant from Iraq who became a naturalized American citizen, was buried over the weekend at the Sacramento Muslim Cemetery after his body was transported back to the U.S., NBC affiliate KCRA reported.
His wife, Noor Alkhalili, told KCRA that Hamid was the American contractor killed in a rocket attack targeting an Iraqi military base on Dec. 27. He leaves behind two sons, ages 2 and 8, she said.
“He was the only person I knew here,” Alkhalili told The Sacramento Bee on Tuesday. “It still doesn’t feel real. It has been difficult to accept that he is no longer here.”
Alkhalili said that she knew something was wrong when Hamid stopped responding to her phone messages. Representatives for Valiant Integrated Services LLC, Hamid's employer, eventually knocked on her door and broke the news of his death.
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"We are deeply saddened by the tragic death of Nawres Hamid," said a statement from Valiant. "Mr. Hamid was a consummate professional and highly committed member of the Valiant team who was cherished and valued by his colleagues. We offer our sincerest condolences to his family."
"Our hearts collectively break for Nawres Hamid and his family during this challenging time," Rep. Doris Matsui, a Democrat who represents the Sacramento area, said in a statement. "Our U.S. military has relied on the expertise and professionalism of linguists in almost every mission around the globe, especially in Iraq. Nawres served and sacrificed for our nation, and we all owe him a debt of gratitude."
Trump called out Hamid's death on Dec. 30. "Iran killed an American contractor, wounding many. We strongly responded, and always will. Now Iran is orchestrating an attack on the U.S. Embassy in Iraq. They will be held fully responsible. In addition, we expect Iraq to use its forces to protect the Embassy, and so notified!" the president wrote in a tweet.
A senior state department official said that the attack, which also wounded American and Iraqi soldiers, was carried out by Kataeb Hezbollah, an Iranian-backed militia group.
Two days after the attack, at least 25 fighters were killed in U.S. airstrikes on weapons depots that the United States said were linked to Kataeb Hezbollah.
In response to those airstrikes, protesters stormed the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad on New Year's Eve.
Days later, "at the direction of the president," the United States killed Gen. Qassem Soleimani, a high-profile commander of Iran's secretive Quds Force, in an airstrike.
That strike also killed Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the commander of Kataeb Hezbollah.
On Tuesday, Iran retaliated by firing more than a dozen ballistic missiles at two Iraqi air bases housing U.S. forces.