A New York City police detective has been identified as one of the six Americans who died when a suicide bomber detonated an explosive device in the midst of a dismounted group of soldiers from a joint convoy of U.S., NATO, and Afghan forces on December 21. New York Police Commissioner identified Officer Joseph Lemm as the deceased. He had been serving with the Air National Guard. Lemm was a 15-year veteran of the NYC police department and had been deployed three times to Afghanistan and Iraq. Three allied troops were wounded and three Afghan police officers were wounded in the attack.
Bratton said on the evening of December 21, "Tonight, we grieve and we remember this selfless public servant who dedicated his life to protecting others." Lemm is survived by his wife and two children.
Officer Joseph Lemm
On the afternoon of December 21, Lemm was manning a joint allied convoy on a routine security patrol north of Kabul and near the strategic Bagram Airfield, when a terrorist drew up on a motorcycle and detonated his explosive charge were walking down a street in an Afghan village. The blast killed Lemm and five other Americans in the convoy. The attack was blamed on the Taliban, which has been gaining ground of late with bold tactics. An Afghan police officer and two allied troopers were killed also.
The White House issued a statement condemning what it called a "cowardly attack," while adding that it will the United States and allied will continue to "counter the threat of terrorism that plagues the region."
Staff Sgt. Lemm was nominated for a New York Post Liberty Medal in 2006 for chasing down a teenager who stabbed a fellow youth in New York City. Having started on the force in the 48th Precinct, five years ago he moved to the Bronx Warrant Squad. He was promoted to third-grade detective in 2014. The Nebraska native lived in Westchester County, New York. He and Christine - his widow - have a daughter, Brook (17) and a son, Ryan (4). Following notice of his death by the Air Force, Lemm's family, friends, and fellow officers filled his home with support on the evening of December 21. He was well respected by fellow police officers and service members and was known by his handle, "Superman."
Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, in a statement, called the attack “a painful reminder of the dangers our troops face every day in Afghanistan.”
US Army Brig. Gen. William Shoffner, a Pentagon spokesman in Afghanistan, said, “Our heartfelt sympathies go out to the families and friends of those affected in this tragic incident, especially during this holiday season.”
Concern is growing over the Taliban wresting control in Helmand province: an insurgent stronghold that is rich in the poppies so essential to the production of heroin. Helmand has been the deadliest field of fire in the 14-year conflict. Last week, a Pentagon report found that security is deteriorating in Afghanistan. The Taliban are gaining in strength as are local adherents of the Islamic State, which is based in Syria. Casualties among coalition forces have dropped off because of the draw-down of foreign forces. The coalition is focused on training Afghan police and military to take over the fighting. Foreign troops are less and less involved in combat operations but still conduct patrols around NATO military bases.
On the day before Lemm’s death, an American veteran was shot to death in a separate attack. Lisa Akbari, who had served in the U.S. Army as a research manager (2009-2013), was killed on the evening of December 20 as she was returning to her Kabul apartment building. Akbari was a dual U.S.-Afghan citizen who lived in the Karte Char area of Kabul for three years. After working in the Army, Akbari worked for humanitarian aid agencies, including World Vision.
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