Pres­i­dent hon­ors 4 Amer­i­cans killed in Syria at­tack

The Fresno Bee (Sunday) - - Stay Connected - BY JILL COLVIN

A solemn pro­ces­sion. A long sa­lute. A chap­lain’s prayer.

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump trav­eled to Delaware’s Dover Air Force Base on Satur­day to pay his re­spects to the re­turn­ing re­mains of four Amer­i­cans who were killed this week in a sui­cide bomb at­tack in Syria.

The bomb­ing, which was the dead­li­est as­sault on U.S. troops in Syria since Amer­i­can forces moved into the coun­try in 2015, came as Trump pre­pares to pull U.S. troops out of Syria.

The pres­i­dent stood solemnly and saluted the re­mains of civil­ian Scott A. Wirtz of St. Louis, Missouri, as his body was car­ried from a C-17 mil­i­tary air­craft into a wait­ing van.

Wirtz and the three other Amer­i­cans were killed in a sui­cide bomb­ing Wed­nes­day in the north­ern Syr­ian town of Man­bij. He had been as­signed to the De­fense In­tel­li­gence Agency as an op­er­a­tions sup­port spe­cial­ist.

The three other trans­fers were to be con­ducted pri­vately, with the pres­i­dent ob­serv­ing. He also spent time with the fam­i­lies of those killed.

Trump told re­porters as he left the White House on Satur­day that meet­ing the rel­a­tives of the coun­try’s fallen he­roes “might be the tough­est thing” he has to do as pres­i­dent.

Trump has made one other visit to Dover dur­ing his pres­i­dency, soon af­ter tak­ing of­fice. On Feb. 1, 2017, Trump hon­ored the re­turn­ing re­mains of a U.S. Navy SEAL killed in a raid in Ye­men. Chief Spe­cial War­fare Op­er­a­tor Wil­liam “Ryan” Owens, a 36-year-old from Peo­ria, Illinois, was the first known U.S. com­bat ca­su­alty since Trump be­came pres­i­dent.

In a Dec. 19 tweet an­nounc­ing the with­drawal from Syria, Trump said, “We have de­feated ISIS in Syria, my only rea­son for be­ing there dur­ing the Trump Pres­i­dency.” He said the troops would be­gin com­ing home “now.” That plan trig­gered im­me­di­ate push­back from mil­i­tary lead­ers and led to the res­ig­na­tion of De­fense Sec­re­tary Jim Mat­tis.

Over the past month, Trump and oth­ers have ap­peared to ad­just the time line, and U.S. of­fi­cials have sug­gested it will likely take sev­eral months to safely with­draw Amer­i­can forces from Syria.

The Is­lamic State group claimed re­spon­si­bil­ity for Wed­nes­day’s at­tack in Man­bij, which killed 19 peo­ple, in­clud­ing the four Amer­i­cans.

Trump said be­fore ar­riv­ing in Dover that IS has lost al­most all its ter­ri­tory but “that doesn’t mean you’re not go­ing to have some­body around.” He also said “we can be pulling back but we’ve been hit­ting ISIS very hard over the last three weeks … and it’s mov­ing along very well.”

PA­TRICK SEMANSKY AP

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump salutes as a U.S. Navy team car­ries the re­mains of Scott A. Wirtz on Satur­day at Dover Air Force Base, Del. Wirtz, a for­mer Navy SEAL from St. Louis, Mo., was killed Wed­nes­day in Syria.

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