“We can confirm the death of an American citizen, Stephen Edward Troell, in Baghdad. We are closely following the investigation by the local authorities,” the statement said. It offered no further comment “out of respect for the family”.
In a pronunciation of her own, US Ambassador to Iraq, Alina Romanowski, expressed her condolences to his wife and children, noting that “he was here privately doing what he loved – working with the Iraqi people.”
Iraqi officials said Troell’s vehicle was attacked by “unknown” gunmen on Monday as he drove through central Baghdad. The weapon that killed him was fitted with a silencer, they said, but they gave no further information. They spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to discuss the sensitive matter.
Iraq’s new prime minister, Mohammed Shia al-Sudani, ordered an investigation into the assassination, promising details, causes and access to the perpetrators as soon as possible.
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Nearly 20 years after the US-led invasion of Iraq, in many ways the country is considered safer for foreigners than for Iraqis. Even as dozens of civilians have been killed in hospital fires and Iran-backed Shia militias target those who criticize them, the country has attracted a steady stream of Western tourists and YouTube bloggers without incident.
In 2018 social media posts, Troell shared photos of visits to Baghdad’s famous book market on Mutanabbi Street and to one of the capital’s bridges over the Tigris River, a popular sunset stop for families.
Troell’s employer, Millennium Relief and Development Services, based in Bellaire, Texas, said in a statement that he had worked in promotion and advertising at the Global English Institute, a language school in Baghdad where his wife was the manager.
Videos on the institute’s Facebook page also showed Troell’s teenage daughters introducing themselves as teachers for classes with young children. The Institute employed several native English speakers among its teaching staff.
“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 their grief over Troell’s death and condolences to his wife and children.
A pronunciation 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 United States in the next few days,” it read.
In a video posted to the page just two weeks before his death, Troell can be seen in front of the school wearing glasses, a button-down shirt and a gray beard enthusiastically inviting students to a new English course and for the first time – help lessons at school.
“We are happy to help you on your English-language journey. We love what we do here, helping people enjoy the English language and make that journey,” he said.
A 2016 conference program, available online, suggested that he had done 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 reads.
Religious groups in Iraq and the wider Middle East often have a vague view of Christian conversion, and missionary work is illegal in some countries.
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A new Iraqi government, sworn in last month, faces major challenges in addressing a range of issues, from the short-term security situation to the long-term challenges posed by climate change amid population growth.
While Sudani represents a fresh face at the top, Iraq’s political system leaves him with influential political players from across the political spectrum, limiting his ability to contain armed groups or fight the endemic corruption that plagues the health and education systems. has barely made it functional is affected.
The murder of a US citizen in central Baghdad will be an early test for Sudani. Under his predecessor, Mustafa al-Kadhimi, investigations into high-profile murders were regularly opened, but the alleged perpetrators mostly walked free due to their ties to powerful Iran-affiliated militias.
“No one is testing this government for security,” Sudani said at a news conference on Tuesday. “The security file is a red line.”
Mustafa Salim in Baghdad and Paul Schemm in London contributed to this report.