Stephen Troell, US citizen, killed in Baghdad, Iraq


A US citizen who worked at a local English-language institute was shot and killed in Baghdad, the US Embassy said on Tuesday, in a rare attack on a foreign visitor to the country.

Stephen Troell lived and worked in Baghdad at the Global English Institute with his wife and four children, all of whom were involved in the operation of the facility.

“We can confirm the death of a US citizen, Stephen Edward Troell, in Baghdad. We are closely monitoring the local authorities’ investigation,” the statement said. It made no further comment “out of respect for the family.”

In a announcement of his own, US Ambassador to Iraq Alina Romanowski expressed her condolences to his wife and children, noting that “he was here in a private capacity doing what he loved – working with the Iraqi people.”

Iraqi officials said Troell’s vehicle was attacked by “unknown” gunmen as he drove through central Baghdad on Monday. The weapon that killed him was equipped with a suppressor, they said, but gave no further details. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the sensitive matter.

Iraq’s new prime minister, Mohammed Shia al-Sudani, ordered an investigation into the killing and promised “details, causes and access to the perpetrators as soon as possible.”

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Almost 20 years after the US-led invasion of Iraq, the country is considered in many ways to be safer for foreigners than for Iraqis. Although dozens of citizens have died in hospital fires and Iran-backed Shiite militias target those who criticize them, the country has attracted a steady stream of Western tourists and YouTube bloggers without incident.

In social media posts from 2018, Troell shared photos of visits to Baghdad’s famous Mutanabbi Street book market and to one of the capital’s bridges over the Tigris River, a popular stop for families at sunset.

Troell’s employer, Millennium Relief and Development Services, based in Bellaire, Tex., said in a statement that he had worked on campaigns and advertising at the Global English Institute, a language school in Baghdad where his wife was the director.

Videos on the institute’s Facebook page also showed Troell’s teenage daughters introducing themselves as teachers to classes with young children. The institute had several native English speakers among the teachers.

“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,” the statement said.

The school said it would be closed for the next two weeks. In the comments, hundreds of people, many apparently students, expressed grief over Troell’s death and offered condolences to his wife and children.

ONE announcement shared online by a family friend, Scott Pauley, said the family would now return home. “Jocelyn, the girls and little Stephen are safe and will return to the US in the next few days,” it read.

In a video posted to the site just two weeks before his death, Troell can be seen standing in front of the school in glasses, a button-down shirt and a gray beard, excitedly inviting students to a new English language course as well as 1st aid classes at the school.

“We will be happy to help you on your English language journey. We love what we do here, helping people enjoy the English language and take that journey,” he said.

A 2016 conference program, available online, suggested that he had engaged in missionary work in the past. “In December 2012, the Troell family moved to the Middle East to study Arabic and continue their efforts to make the name of Jesus great among the nations,” it said.

Religious groups in Iraq and the wider Middle East often take a dim view of Christian proselytisation, and missionary work is illegal in some countries.

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A new Iraqi government sworn in last month faces steep challenges in tackling a range of issues, from the short-term security situation to the long-term challenges posed by climate change amid a population boom.

Although Sudani represents a fresh face at the top, Iraq’s political system leaves him dependent on influential political actors from across the political spectrum, undermining his ability to rein in armed groups or fight the endemic corruption that has left health and education systems barely functioning probably worked.

The killing of an American citizen in downtown Baghdad will be an early test for Sudan. Under his predecessor, Mustafa al-Kadhimi, investigations were often launched into high-profile assassinations, but the alleged perpetrators usually walked free because of their links to powerful Iran-linked militias.

“No one is testing this government for security,” Sudani said Tuesday at a news conference. “The security file is a red line.”

Mustafa Salim in Baghdad and Paul Schemm in London contributed to this report.

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