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U.S. identifies Tennessee native slain in Baghdad, questions remain

Troell, a native of Tennessee, was killed by unknown assailants in his car as he pulled up to the street where he lived with his family.
Credit: AP
Iraqi security forces gather outside a morgue of Sheikh Zayed Hospital in Baghdad, Monday, Nov. 7, 2022. Assailants shot dead an American aid worker in Baghdad on Monday in a rare killing of a foreigner in the Iraqi capital in recent years, two police officials said. (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban)

BAGHDAD, Iraq — An American aid worker fatally shot in central Baghdad was identified as 45-year-old Stephen Edward Troell, the U.S. Embassy based in Baghdad said Tuesday.

Troell, a native of Tennessee, was killed by unknown assailants in his car as he pulled up to the street where he lived with his family in Baghdad's central Karrada district. It was a rare killing of a foreigner in Iraq, where security conditions have improved in recent years, even opening the door for tourism.

The embassy said it was closely monitoring an investigation begun by Iraqi authorities, but declined to comment further out of respect for his mourning family, the embassy statement said.

Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani ordered an investigation in the hours after Troell was killed. Troell's body had already arrived at Baghdad's Sheikh Zayed hospital.

Troell's family issued a statement Tuesday:

"On Monday, November 7, 2022, 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.

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.'"

The circumstances surrounding Troell's death and his activities in Iraq are shrouded in mystery. No group has claimed responsibility for the killing. Security officials dismissed the possibility it was a kidnapping gone wrong.

He was sent out by Temple Baptist as a Christian Aid to teach English as a second language and serve as an educator. He had been in the region for around 15 years and even built a radio station in Baghdad. He graduated from Crown Graduate School.

Security officials said as Troell drove through his street toward his home in Karrada's Wahda area on Monday, a car cut him off and assailants in another vehicle then shot him dead. The officials also said his wife was in the car with him but had not been hurt. Her whereabouts and that of their children are not known.

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.

In one post, Troell posed with his wife on a Baghdad bridge as the sun set behind them. “What a wonderful place!” he wrote.

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.

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