An Arabic interpreter from East Point was among 19 people killed in a suicide bombing claimed by the Islamic State in Syria Wednesday, a gruesome attack that came just weeks after President Donald Trump called for the withdrawal of U.S. troops and declared the terrorist group had been “largely defeated.”
Tri-Cities High School graduate Ghadir Taher, 27, who immigrated with her family to America from Syria, died from injuries she sustained in the blast, her younger brother, Ali, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Friday.
“Her smile lit up the room. She was kind,” Ali Taher said, his voice edged with emotion. “You could go on for hours, talking to her about your worries and about your troubles. And she would make them seem like they were hers.”
The family, he said, learned about her death Wednesday from her employer, Valiant Integrated Services, a defense contractor.
“We are extremely saddened by the tragic and senseless passing of Ghadir Taher,” Valiant spokesman Tom Becker said in an email. “Out of respect to her family, we will make no further comment at this time other than to say she was a talented and highly-respected colleague, loved by many, who will be dearly missed.”
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The bomber targeted U.S. troops at a popular restaurant, the Palace of Princes, in the northern city of Manbij. Video footage of the blast shows a fireball enveloping the sidewalk in front of the crowded restaurant, knocking pedestrians off their feet.
On Friday, the U.S. Defense Department identified three other Americans killed in the attack: Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jonathan Farmer, 37, of Boynton Beach, Fla.; Navy Chief Cryptologic Technician Shannon Kent, 35, of upstate New York; and Scott Wirtz of St. Louis, Mo., who was assigned to the Defense Intelligence Agency as an operations support specialist.
Trump touched on the Islamic State — also referred to as ISIS — and the U.S. troop withdrawal from Syria in a series of Dec. 22 Twitter posts.
“On Syria, we were originally… going to be there for three months, and that was seven years ago — we never left,” he tweeted. “When I became President, ISIS was going wild. Now ISIS is largely defeated and other local countries, including Turkey, should be able to easily take care of whatever remains. We’re coming home!”
Vice President Mike Pence went a step further in his condemnation of the attack Wednesday.
“Thanks to the courage of our Armed Forces, we have crushed the ISIS caliphate and devastated its capabilities,” Pence said in a prepared statement. “As we begin to bring our troops home, the American people can be assured, for the sake of our soldiers, their families, and our nation, we will never allow the remnants of ISIS to reestablish their evil and murderous caliphate — not now, not ever.”
Critics have questioned whether the president’s comments emboldened the Islamic State. They have called on him to reconsider his decision about the withdrawal of troops.
“My concern, by the statements made by President Trump, is that you set in motion enthusiasm by the enemy we’re fighting. You make people we’re trying to help wonder about us. And as they get bolder, the people we’re trying to help are going to get more uncertain. I saw this in Iraq. And I’m now seeing it in Syria,” Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said Wednesday.
Born and raised in Damascus, Ghadir Taher became a naturalized U.S. citizen after immigrating to America with her brother, Ali, in 2001. Driven and independent-minded, she started working when she turned 17, at one point holding two jobs. She made friends easily, dreamed about traveling around the world and studied international business at Georgia State University before going to work for Valiant, drawn by the opportunity to help people, her brother said. In Syria, she interpreted for U.S. troops and cooked meals for them, using local ingredients. She was there for less than a year before the suicide bomber struck.
“She liked what she did. She believed in what she did,” said Ali Taher, a Delta Air Lines employee from Seattle. “I always told her to be strong — that she is the strongest person I know and that she has to remain strong.”
He last spoke to his sister by phone New Year’s Day, his 26th birthday. They talked about a trip he was planning to Jamaica. She told him not to worry about her safety. And he told her he loved her and was proud of her.
“She is beyond my best friend,” he said.
She would have turned 28 Feb. 3.