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US welcomes conviction of Iranian, 4 Iraqis for killing American citizen

Stephen Troell, an aid worker in Baghdad, was killed in November when gunmen opened fire on his car.
Iraqis drive past electoral billboards and placards of candidates for the upcoming parliamentary elections in Karrada district, Baghdad, Iraq, Sept. 19, 2021.

WASHINGTON — The Biden administration welcomed on Thursday night an Iraqi court’s conviction of five individuals for the killing of an American aid worker in Baghdad last year. 

Earlier on Thursday, an Iranian man and four Iraqis were sentenced to life in prison for killing Tennessee native Stephen Troell as he was driving his car in Baghdad's central Karrada district last November. Troell’s wife and child were in the car but unharmed. 

A judicial source told AFP the five men “confessed” to Troell’s murder, but said they originally intended to kidnap him for ransom. The court did not identify the convicted individuals, but Reuters reports that officials described the four Iraqis as members of Shi’ite militia.

"It is critical that all those responsible for the brutal, premeditated assassination of Mr. Troell face justice and accountability," department spokesperson Matthew Miller said in a statement. "We once again extend our condolences to Mr. Troell’s family and hope this verdict brings them some measure of justice."

Troell had worked in Baghdad’s Harthiya neighborhood for an English-language school that was part of Texas-based nonprofit Millennium Relief and Development Services. At the time, Iran-aligned media misreported that he worked at the US Agency for International Development. 

Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani ordered an investigation into the killing, which he described as “a cowardly crime against an American citizen and resident of our country who is known among the community.”  

In the chaos that followed the 2003 US-led invasion, targeted assassinations and abductions were widespread. While such attacks in Baghdad are less common now, the targeting of activists and intellectuals continues. 

In July 2022, Hisham al-Hashimi, an internationally known Iraqi expert on extremist groups and militias in Iraq and Syria, was assassinated by gunmen outside his house in Baghdad's Zayouna district. In May, an Iraqi criminal court sentenced to death a former police officer convicted of Hashimi’s killing.  

Elizabeth Tsurkov, an Israeli-Russian researcher with ties to the United States, was abducted on March 21 in the Iraqi capital Baghdad. According to the Israeli government, she is alive and in the custody of radical Iran-backed Shiite paramilitary group Kataib Hezbollah. Iraqi authorities in July opened an investigation into her suspected kidnapping.

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