Military contractor slain in Iraq buried in California

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — A U.S. military contractor who was killed in a rocket attack in Iraq last month — an attack that ignited a series of reprisals between the U.S. and Iran that have inflamed tensions in the region — has been buried in Northern California, it was reported Tuesday.

Nawres Waleed Hamid died on Dec. 27 at a military base near Iraq's northern city of Kirkuk, where he worked as a linguist.

He lived in the Sacramento suburb of Arden Arcade and was buried in California's state capitol on Saturday, the Sacramento Bee reported.

Hamid's wife, Noor Alkhali, told the Bee that she felt something was wrong when he stopped responding to her phone messages. A short time later, a representative for his employer, Valiant Integrated Services, visited and broke the news of his death.

“He was the only person I knew here,” Alkhalil said Tuesday as she sat with her sons, ages 2 and 8. “It still doesn’t feel real. It has been difficult to accept that he is no longer here.”

Hamid's company paid for his funeral and burial at the Greater Sacramento Muslim Cemetery, cemetery officials told the newspaper.

The couple came to the United States in 2011 while she was pregnant, Alkhali said. She planned to remain in California.

“What would I return to in Iraq?” she asked. “Now my focus is on my two children; they are my world.”

“Nawres served and sacrificed for our nation, and we all owe him a debt of gratitude," said U.S. Rep. Doris Matsui, a Sacramento Democrat.

Virginia-based Valiant issued a statement Tuesday calling Hamid “a consummate professional and highly committed member of the Valiant team who was cherished and valued by his colleagues."

Hamid's death was blamed by the U.S. on the Kataeb Hezbollah, or Hezbollah Brigades, an Iraqi militia backed by Iran.

The U.S. responded with air strikes targeting the group's fighters that killed 25 people in Iraq and Syria, which in turn prompted an attack on the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, followed by a U.S. drone strike near the Baghdad airport last Friday that killed Lt. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, commander of the Revolutionary Guard's expeditionary Quds force. The killing prompted waves of mourning and threats of revenge in Iran.

On Tuesday, the U.S. said Iran fired more than a dozen missiles targeting at least two Iraqi military bases hosting American forces and coalition personnel.

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