The Iraqi-American contractor who was killed in a rocket attack in Iraq in late December was buried in Sacramento on Saturday. His death was the start of a chain of events that U.S. leaders say prompted them to carry out drone strikes in Iraq and Syria, which culminated with the killing of Iranian military leader Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani.
The death of Sacramento resident Nawres Waleed Hamid is cited as one of the reasons the U.S. government killed Soleimani, sparking concerns of a potential war with Iran. The U.S. government defends its actions saying Soleimani planned to attack U.S. troops.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Army Gen. Mark Milley, told reporters Monday he had personally seen the intelligence outlining the threat. On Tuesday, in a news conference with reporters, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said the attack had been expected to occur within days.
Iran has vowed revenge for Soleimani’s killing, promising to target U.S. service personnel.
Hamid, who worked as a linguist and had attended classes at American River College, was killed at a military base near Kirkuk, Iraq, in a Dec. 27 rocket attack. The U.S. blamed Kataeb Hezbollah, a militia group with connections to Iran, according to several news reports.
Two days later, American forces dropped three bombs in Iraq and two in Syria, killing 25 people. The bombing targets were said to be tied to Kataeb Hezbollah. In response, protesters attacked the U.S. embassy in Baghdad on Dec. 31. On Jan. 2, Soleimani and five others were killed in a targeted drone strike near Baghdad’s airport.
Noor Alkhalili, Hamid’s wife, spoke with The Sacramento Bee from her Arden Arcade apartment. She felt something was wrong when Hamid stopped responding to her phone messages. Shortly after, she received a knock on her door. Hamid’s employer, Valiant Integrated Services, broke the news of his death.
“He was the only person I knew here,” Alkhalili said Tuesday, sitting with her sons, ages 2 and 8. She said she broke the news of Hamid’s death to his family and her sons not long after a Valiant representative visited. “It still doesn’t feel real. It has been difficult to accept that he is no longer here.”
She turned to the Greater Sacramento Muslim Cemetery to help her bury Hamid in line with religious traditions. Cemetery officials said Valiant paid for Hamid’s funeral.
U.S. Rep. Doris Matsui, D-Sacramento, issued a statement expressing her regret over Hamid’s death.
“Our hearts collectively break for Nawres Hamid and his family during this challenging time,” Matsui said. “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. My thoughts and prayers are with Nawres’ widow and children at this time.”
Matsui has previously introduced legislation to assist Iraqi and Afghan translators who assisted U.S. forces, and in April joined other House members is seeking protections for Iraqis from facing deportation.
“We are deeply saddened by the tragic death of Nawres Hamid,” Valiant said in a statement confirming his death Tuesday. “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. In deference to his loved ones, we will offer no further comment at this time.
Valiant is based in Herndon, Virginia, and offers a range of international services, including interpreters serving INSCOM, the Army Intelligence and Security Command, support for special operation forces and counterintelligence services, according to its website.
Emma Sharma, the company’s chief administrative and compliance officer, did not respond to a call Tuesday seeking details on Hamid’s work for the company in Iraq.
Alkhalili said she and Hamid arrived in the U.S. in 2011 while she was pregnant with her eldest son. With her husband gone, she plans to remain in Sacramento for her future as a medical technician.
“What would I return to in Iraq?” she asked. “Now my focus is on my two children; they are my world.”