Syrian-born woman among 4 slain Americans in Manbij

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The attack came a month after US President Donald Trump announced his decision to withdraw all 2,000 US troops from Syria. (AFP)
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American Army Chief Warrant Officer Jonathan Farmer, 37, was killed in the northern Syrian town of Manbij. (Fort Bragg via AP)
Updated 20 January 2019

Syrian-born woman among 4 slain Americans in Manbij

  • US government sources say the Pentagon and other national agencies are investigating the bombing
  • This is one of the deadliest attacks on US forces in Syria since their deployment in 2015

WASHINGTON: One of the four Americans killed in a suicide bomb attack in Syria this week was a Navy sailor and married mother of two whose father is a high-ranking officer in the New York State Police, officials said on Friday.
The Pentagon identified three of the four Americans killed in Wednesday’s attack in the northern Syrian town of Manbij.
They are Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jonathan R. Farmer, 37, of Boynton Beach, Florida, who was based at Fort Campbell, Kentucky; Navy Chief Cryptologic Technician (Interpretive) Shannon M. Kent, 35, of Pine Plains, New York, and based at Fort Meade, Maryland; and a civilian, Scott A. Wirtz, from St. Louis.
The Pentagon has not identified the fourth casualty, a civilian contractor.
But according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, an Arabic interpreter who had emigrated from Syria to the US was among at least 20 people killed in the bombing.
Ali Taher told the newspaper on Friday that his older sister, Ghadir Taher, 27, of East Point, Georgia, was killed by the blast.
Ali Taher, who immigrated with his family to the US, said his sister’s smile would light up the room. He said she graduated from Tri-Cities High School and was kind and very easy to talk to.
The family learned of her death from her employer, Valiant Integrated Services, a defense contractor, he said.
In an email to the newspaper, Valiant spokesman Tom Becker confirmed the death, adding they were “extremely saddened by the tragic and senseless passing” of Ghadir Taher.
The attack, claimed by Daesh, also wounded three US troops and was the deadliest assault on US troops in Syria since American forces went into the country in 2015.
The Pentagon’s statement said Kent was from upstate New York but did not give a hometown. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a statement that she was from Pine Plains and was the daughter of state police field commander Col. Stephen Smith, the agency’s third-highest position.
“We owe her our eternal gratitude for her selfless dedication and sacrifice,” Cuomo said while ordering flags on state government buildings to be flown at half-staff in Kent’s honor.
Tara Grieb, principal of Stissing Mountain Junior-Senior High School in Pine Plains, said Kent grew up in the small, picturesque Hudson Valley town 145 km north of New York City and graduated from the local high school in 2001.
Grieb said Kent moved away after enlisting in the Navy in 2003.
“She was an honor student and a fabulous person,” Grieb said. “We are proud of her and her service and we support her family 100 percent in their time of sorrow.”
Kent’s mother, Mary Smith, taught sixth grade in the district until retiring last year, Grieb said.
Kent, who lived in Maryland with her husband and two children, was assigned to the Cryptologic Warfare Activity 66 based at Fort George Meade.
Cryptologic technicians are part of the Navy’s intelligence-gathering apparatus, analyzing encrypted electronic communications and using computers and other technology to compile information on the nation’s enemies.
Cmdr. Joseph Harrison, the unit’s commanding officer, said in a statement that Kent “was a rockstar, an outstanding Chief Petty Officer, and leader to many in the Navy Information Warfare Community.”
Florida’s Palm Beach Post reported that Farmer’s parents loaded suitcases into a friend’s SUV on Friday morning before heading to Dover, Delaware, for the return of their son’s remains.
Duncan Farmer characterized his son as “a good man. Good son. Good father. Good husband.” Then he added, “A good friend.”
Duncan Farmer said they knew Jonathan, a Green Beret, was in Syria, but “we didn’t know exactly where.”
Jonathan Farmer was born in Boynton Beach, Florida, south of West Palm Beach. He grew up in Palm Beach Gardens, attending the Benjamin School before going to Bowdoin College in Maine.
His father said Jonathan Famer was in the military for 13 years and had been in dangerous places “many times,” including Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq.
He said services will be at St. Patrick Catholic Church in Palm Beach Gardens, but a date has not been set. He said internment will be at Arlington National Cemetery.
In Missouri, Gov. Mike Parson asked Missourians to pray for the family of Wirtz, a former Navy SEAL who was working for the US Defense Intelligence Agency as an operations support specialist.
Wirtz “died bravely serving our nation in a dangerous part of the world, and for that we are grateful,” Parson said.


Leaked audio of Assad forces shooting elderly women in Idlib proves civilian killings: Report

Updated 7 min 34 sec ago

Leaked audio of Assad forces shooting elderly women in Idlib proves civilian killings: Report

LONDON: Syrian regime forces deliberately killed elderly women in northwest Syria, leaked recordings obtained by the UK’s Daily Telegraph have shown.
The audio recordings from Feb. 11 also suggest that forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad attacked Turkish military posts in violation of a cease-fire deal.
The recordings captured a conversation between soldiers from the infamous elite Tiger Forces tracking a vehicle driving into the village of Mizanaz, to the west of Aleppo.
In the audio, intercepted by spotters at an observatory in the local area who picked up the soldiers’ frequency, one soldier can be heard saying: “There are women driving, their car is stuck in the mud and they’re headed to a battlefield.”
A second soldier said: “She looks elderly. It’s clear she’s coming to pack her belongings, then she’s leaving.”
Despite a clear identification of the women, one of the soldiers is heard saying: “I’m watching them. They’re about to enter a house. Yallah, I’m firing now.”
At that point, rapid machine gun fire can be heard on the tape. “Fire, fire, I’m observing for you,” the second soldier replies.
Local media reports from the time and date of the audio recording support the assertion that the women were killed in the attack.
Regime forces have used attacks on civilians as part of their strategy to clear rebel-held areas of the country, while attacking civilian institutions such as schools and hospitals. 
In September 2019, pro-Assad militants reportedly executed an elderly woman who refused to leave her home when it was confiscated after they recaptured the town of Khan Sheikhoun. 
According to figures from the Syrian Network for Human Rights, regime forces and their Russian allies are responsible for 90 percent of civilian deaths in the nine-year conflict, with three-quarters of those people victims of artillery or aerial shelling. The deliberate killing of non-combatants is a war crime under international law.
The Telegraph’s report also revealed recordings showing regime forces actively attacking Turkish posts in Idlib province that were set up as part of a de-escalation deal negotiated with Russia in 2018.
The attacks prompted Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday to urge his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to “restrain” Assad’s advance in Idlib.