Scott A. Wirtz has been identified as the U.S. Department of Defense civilian killed in a suicide bombing attack in Syria Wednesday, the US Department of Defense reported Friday morning.
Wirtz, of St. Louis, Missouri, was assigned to the Defense Intelligence Agency as an operations support specialist, the DoD said.
On Dec. 22, 2018, Pres. Donald Trump declared that ISIS had been defeated and he was ordering 2,000 troops in Syria, part of Operation Inherent Resolve, home.
Four weeks later, on Jan. 16, 2019, a suicide bomber’s attack killed four in an explosion in Manbij in northern Syria; two U.S. service members, a Department of Defense civilian and a private contractor, all part of OIR. US Army Chief Warrant Officer Jonathan Farmer, Navy Chief Cryptologic Technician Shannon Kent, 35, were named as the soldier and sailor killed.
And at least six Syrian civilians were killed in the attack including, it appears, two young women.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Wirtz Was a Defense Intelligence Agency Operations Support Specialist
Heavy has contacted the Defense Intelligence Agency to earn more about Wirtz and is waiting to hear back. In the meantime, what we know is he is from St. Louis and worked doing support operations.
According to a report, Wirtz competed in mixed martial arts.
2. Wirtz Was a Former Navy Seal & MMA Fighter, According to Facebook Posts
According to this Facebook post, Wirtz was an MMA fighter.
“We are saddened by the news today of the passing a former fighter, supporter and friend of #ShamrockFC Scotty Wirtz was killed on Wednesday in Syria while working for the Department of Defense. He was a former Navy Seal and graduate of De Smet High School in St. Louis. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his friends and family. Also to all the veterans and service men and women risking theirs lives for our country. #Navyseal #MMA #Veteran #Navy #fighter”
“…Wirtz was in my daughter’s wedding so I had the honor of meeting him. What a awesome guy he was. Former Navy Seal and a real warrior.”
3. US Forces Were Targeted by the ISIS-Affiliated Suicide Bomber
An early report from Aleppo Media said the attack occurred near the “Princes Palace restaurant next to the girls ‘ school in the center of Manbij, east of Aleppo.”
The spokesperson for Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR), the U.S.-led coalition against ISIS, tweeted that “U.S. service members were killed during an explosion while conducting a routine patrol in Syria …”
The U.S. Central Command announced the deaths Wednesday afternoon, Jan. 16, hours after the deadly attack saying the dead were killed while “conducting a local engagement.” Three US service members were reported injured.
Initial reports were that there were two U.S. service members killed. Then three, then two plus civilians working for the DoD. Then late Wednesday, according to Reuters, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said 20 were killed in what was described as an ISIS-affiliated suicide bomber’s attack, reported to be the “deadliest on U.S. forces in Syria since they deployed on the ground there in 2015.”
4. When Trump Announced His Pull-Out of Syria, Criticism of that Move Came Quickly & From Political Allies
When Trump announced his plans to remove troops from Syria saying ISIS had been defeated, lawmakers, including Republicans Lindsey Graham and Marco Rubio blasted his decision. Wednesday, both spoke out.
Referring to Trump’s tweets, Graham said his “statements set in motion enthusiasm by the enemy we’re fighting – you make people we’re trying to help wonder about us,” Graham said taking a minute to address the attack during the Burr confirmation hearings.
“And I hope the president will look long and hard at where he’s headed in Syria …we’re never going to be safe here if unless we’re willing to help people over there who are willing to stand up to this radical ideology.”
Early Wednesday, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders deferred comment to the Defense Department.
5. Vice President Mike Pence Said That ISIS Has Been Defeated Just Hours After the Deadly Attack
A few hours had passed when Vice President Mike Pence, speaking at the Global Chiefs of Mission Conference ‘One Team, One Mission, One Future’ at the Department of State, announced that ISIS had been “defeated” and its Caliphate has “crumbled.” It was widely reported that Pence was briefed on the ISIS-claimed suicide bombing.
NBC’s Richard Engel reported a “senior Kurdish security official” said U.S. service members were “on foot in the center of the city when they were approached by a suicide bomber, claimed by ISIS.”
That does not explain the presence of a civilian and a contractor.
Other reports state that the attack occurred while U.S. personnel were eating in a restaurant, which may be the Princes Palace, as was reported by Syrian media.
Trump’s exit plan is underway as CNN reported, but his National Security adviser John Bolton told reporters US forces would not be leaving Turkey until there were assurances from Turkey that “its Kurdish allies would not be attacked” given some Kurds are considered terrorists by Turkey, it’s reported.
Meanwhile, Kurds have appealed for assistance in continuing the fight against ISIS.
Kurdish YPG soldiers have controlled Manbij since 2016. US forces were said to have begun patrols in that city in December.
Meanwhile, ISIS was taking credit for the terror attack that claimed US lives.
The ISIS propaganda so-called news agency Amaq and similar were reporting the suicide bombing and murder.