Newlywed and medic among 13 US troops killed in Afghanistan attack

Families and government officials have taken to social media to express their grief and anger

The American flag flies at half-mast outside Norco High School, Norco, California, where Marine Corps Lance Cpl Kareem Nikoui, who was killed in the Kabul airport attack, graduated in 2019.  Reuters
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Personal details have begun to emerge about the 13 US military personnel who were among more than 180 people killed in the Kabul airport suicide bombing on Thursday.

The number of Afghans killed in the blast has reached 169, with officials saying this figure is likely to increase.

US casualties included an expectant father from Wyoming, a medic from Ohio and a marine from California who sent home video of himself giving sweets to Afghan children.

The US Defence Department has not formally announced the names of the service members killed in the attack in Afghanistan's capital on Thursday, but family members and public officials spoke about some of them.

Islamic State militants claimed responsibility for the attack, carried out during a massive relocation of US and other foreign nationals as well as several Afghan civilians following the Taliban takeover.

US marine Kareem Nikoui, 20, was killed in the attack, according to his father Steve Nikoui, who said he was notified by three marines who arrived at his house on Thursday evening.

The elder Mr Nikoui said his son sent a video home the day before the attack showing him talking to Afghan children and giving them sweets at the Kabul airport.

“He was born the same year it started, and ended his life with the end of this war,” Mr Nikoui said from his home in Norco, California, referring to a war that began in 2001.

Mr Nikoui, 49, expressed anger over the situation in Afghanistan.

“I'm really disappointed in the way that the president has handled this, even more so the way the military has handled it. The commanders on the ground should have recognised this threat and addressed it,” Mr Nikoui said.

Also among the US troops killed was Rylee McCollum of Wyoming, who graduated from high school two years ago before joining the US Marine Corps, state officials said on Friday.

Governor Mark Gordon confirmed McCollum's death on Twitter.

“I'm devastated to learn Wyoming lost one of our own in yesterday's terrorist attack in Kabul,” Mr Gordon wrote.

McCollum was a 2019 graduate of Jackson Hole High School in Wyoming, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow said.

“Saying that I am grateful for Rylee's service to our country does not begin to encapsulate the grief and sadness I feel today as a mother and as an American,” Ms Balow said in a statement. “My heart and prayers are with Rylee's family, friends, and the entire Jackson community.”

Navy medic Max Soviak of Ohio was also killed in the attack, US Senator Rob Portman wrote on Twitter.

His sister Marilyn Soviak remembered him on Instagram, writing, “My beautiful, intelligent, beat-to-the-sound of his own drum, annoying, charming baby brother was killed yesterday helping to save lives".

Pictures on Max Soviak's Instagram page showed him laughing on the beach, rock-climbing, skiing and posing with two young children. “Not just an older brother, I'm the cool older brother,” Soviak wrote in 2019.

His last post was more foreboding.

“It's kill or be killed, definitely trynna be on the kill side,” Soviak wrote on June 10.

Reuters contributed to the reporting of this story

Updated: August 28, 2021, 3:01 PM