Thursday, November 23, 2017
Military News

Suicide attack killed female soldier from St. Pete, says C.W. Bill Young

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ST. PETERSBURG

A local soldier killed in Afghanistan on Saturday died in a suicide bomb attack, U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young told the Tampa Bay Times on Monday night.

Earlier Monday evening, the U.S. Department of Defense issued a news release saying that Army Spc. Brittany B. Gordon died from injuries caused by an improvised explosive device in Kandahar, Afghanistan. The military provided no other details.

Contacted by phone later that night, Young, R-Indian Shores, told the Times that military officials had advised him that the IED came from a suicide bomber.

"It is not one that was planted as a mine. The person was wearing a suicide vest. This is also considered an IED," said Young, who chairs the House defense appropriations subcommittee.

Late Monday night, the New York Times published a story describing a suicide attack that occurred Saturday morning in Afghanistan in which a U.S. soldier was killed. The article does not name the soldier, but the circumstances are what Young described.

The attack occurred when a delegation including U.S. coalition members arrived to deliver furniture to an intelligence office in the Maruf district, a remote area of Kandahar providence, Afghan officials said.

The attacker wore a suicide vest beneath his intelligence service uniform, which he detonated shortly after the delegation arrived.

Killed in the attack were the U.S. soldier, a former U.S. military officer, the deputy intelligence director for Kandahar providence, two of his bodyguards and another Afghan intelligence employee.

This was the first attack this year by an intelligence service employee to result in the death of international service members. Generally the intelligence service, known as the National Directorate of Security, is thought to vet its employees more thoroughly than the Afghan army and police.

In this case the target appears to have been the Afghan agents, officials said.

Haji Malim Toorylai, the Maruf district chief, said, "The man believed he was attacking the NDS delegation; he probably was not aware of the foreign soldiers coming with them."

The man who carried out the attack was named Abdul Wali and was from Zirak, a village in Maruf, said Toorylai. Maruf, the easternmost district in Kandahar province, is sandwiched between Pakistan's ungoverned tribal areas and Afghanistan's Zabul province, a rural desert area where the Taliban have a strong presence.

Gordon is the daughter of St. Petersburg assistant police chief Cedric Gordon and his former wife, Brenda Gordon. The 24-year-old grew up in St. Petersburg and graduated from St. Petersburg High School in 2006.

She is the first female soldier from the Tampa Bay area killed in the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Her family was notified of her death Saturday. Her remains arrived early Monday morning at Dover Air Force Base.

Family members said Brittany Gordon's parents met the body in Delaware. Services have not been announced yet.

"I know that Chief Gordon was extremely proud of Brittany and all that she accomplished in her life," police Chief Chuck Harmon said in a statement. "Her life of service and especially service to her country stand as a testament to the type of person she was."

Family friend Cynthia Jolliff-Johnson said Brittany Gordon was vivacious.

"She was kind. She was compassionate. She really had a joie de vivre," Jolliff-Johnson said.

Gordon joined the military in 2010. This was her first deployment. She was assigned to the 572 Military Intelligence Company, 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, the military said.

Gordon worked in military communications, relatives said. She was scheduled to return home in December.

Some 20,000 of the 205,000 service members serving in Afghanistan are women, according to the Department of Defense. Pentagon statistics show that, as of Monday, 152 military women have been killed and 947 wounded in combat and noncombat incidents in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Defense Department says there have been more than 2,000 total military deaths in Afghanistan.

Gordon is the 12th female soldier from Florida to die in the wars.

Young became a critic of the nation's war in Afghanistan last month after he received a letter from Staff Sgt. Matthew Sitton of Largo, who told him of the carnage caused by IEDs. Sitton was later killed by one.

"Things have gone wrong in Afghanistan," Young said Monday night. "Something has to change. Too many people are ignoring that fact, and suggesting that it's not that bad. But it is that bad."

Young said he spent time with Cedric Gordon last week when they met to talk about honoring fallen police officers. Young said it was apparent he was a proud father.

Young said the deaths of Sitton and Brittany Gordon reinforce his new position on the war. "It makes it very personal," Young said. "The Gordon case brings it even closer to home."

Times researcher Carolyn Edds contributed to this report, which includes information from the New York Times. Kameel Stanley can be reached at (727) 893-8643.

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