September 24 2021 03:30 pm

2 Southern California Marines among 13 U.S. service members killed in Kabul airport attacks

California

Two of the U.S. Marines killed in attacks Thursday in Afghanistan while supporting evacuations at the Kabul airport were identified Friday as Southern California natives, one of them the son of two Riverside County sheriff’s deputies.

Cpl. Hunter Lopez, 22, was a Riverside Sheriff’s Explorer Scout for three years at the Palm Desert Station and planned to join his father on the force after returning from his current deployment, the Riverside Sheriff’s Association said.

“We are heartbroken to hear this sad news about Hunter, who chose to follow a life of service, selflessness, courage and sacrifice, like his parents,” the statement read.

Riverside County Sheriff Chad Biacno identified Lopez’s parents as Sheriff’s Department Capt. Herman Lopez and Deputy Alicia Lopez. He called their son “their American Hero.”

Also among those slain was Lance Cpl. Kareem Mae’Lee Grant Nikoui, who graduated from Norco High School in 2019 and served in Norco High School Air Force Junior ROTC. He is survived by his mother, father and siblings, the city said in a Facebook post.

“Today’s news of our former student has shocked and saddened us, and we ask the community to join us in honoring Kareem’s memory for he has given the ultimate sacrifice,” the Corona-Norco Unified School District said in a statement.

Nikoui and Lopez were among 13 U.S. service members killed in action as a suicide bomber and gunmen targeted crowds flocking to the Kabul airport to flee the Taliban regime. Well over 100 Afghans were also slain, the Associated Press reported.

The U.S. Marine Corps have yet to release the names of the victims among their ranks, and they customarily wait until 24 hours after family members have been notified. The slain service members include 11 Marines, as well as one soldier and one Navy medic.

The attacks blamed on Afghanistan’s offshoot of the Islamic State group — an enemy of both the Taliban and the U.S. — represent one of the deadliest days in the two-decade war, according to the AP.

Nikoui’s father, Steve Nikoui, said in an interview with the Daily Beast that his son loved serving his country and had “always wanted to be Marine.” He was stationed at Camp Pendleton in San Diego County.

“He really loved that [Marine Corps] family,” the father said. “He was devoted—he was going to make a career out of this, and he wanted to go. No hesitation for him to be called to duty.”

Steve Nikoui also expressed anger at political decisions that have led to the turmoil in Afghanistan, saying, “Biden turned his back on him. That’s it.”

Cpl. Nikoui’s name will be enshrined on the Lest We Forget Wall at the George A. Ingalls Veterans Memorial Plaza, which honors people from Norco who have died while serving their country.

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly described the number of soldiers killed. This post has been updated.

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