Kabul attack: 3 SoCal Marines among the fatalities in airport bombing

ByLeticia Juarez, Jory Rand, and ABC7.com staff KABC logo
Saturday, August 28, 2021
3 SoCal Marines killed in Kabul bombing
Marines from Norco, Rancho Cucamonga and the Coachella Valley were among the fatalities in a suicide bombing at the Kabul airport.

NORCO, Calif. (KABC) -- Three Marines from Southern California were among the casualties in the suicide bombing attack on the Kabul airport.

The attack killed 13 U.S. service members and more than 100 Afghans. It has been attributed to an Afghanistan affiliate of the terrorist organization Islamic State.

Although the Pentagon has not officially released names of those killed, Kareem Nikoui, a Marine from Norco who was stationed at the Kabul airport, was among the fatalities, Norco Mayor Kevin Bash told Eyewitness News.

Marine Cpl. Hunter Lopez of La Quinta was also killed in the attack, according to a local law enforcement organization.

Marine Lance Cpl. Dylan Merola of Rancho Cucamonga was also among the fatalities, Eyewitness News has learned. Merola was a graduate of Los Osos High School. Students honored him at Friday night's football game by wearing red, white and blue.

Nikoui died helping to save children and families of Afghans who had aided the U.S. government, according to Bash.

"My understanding is that he rescued - per a sergeant that wrote the family - he rescued three families," Bash said.

"And he was in the process of saving children, translators that had worked for the U.S. government. He passed off a child and went back into the crowd and that's when the bomb went off."

The city of Norco plans to honor Nikoui by placing his name on the "Lest We Forget Wall" at the George A. Ingalls Veterans Memorial Plaza, which honors city residents who made the ultimate sacrifice, the city tweeted. There is also a Gold Star Families Memorial monument under construction at the site.

Nikoui served in ROTC at Norco High School, according to school Principal Rob Ibbetson.

"He had dreams and aspirations of being a Marine and he certainly got to that," Ibbetson said. "We're really proud of what he's done. He was basically living his dream. So it was hard for all of us."

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Nikoui's father told the Daily Beast that the Marines came to his door hours after the attack to notify him of his son's death.

"I haven't gone to bed all night," Nikoui told the publication. "I'm still in shock. I haven't been able to grasp everything that's going on."

The Nikoui family is expected to travel to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware to receive Kareem's remains.

Lopez, 22, was the son of two members of the Riverside County Sheriff's Department and had planned on joining the agency himself after his deployment ended, according to the Riverside Sheriff's Association.

"We are heartbroken to hear this sad news about Hunter, who chose to follow a life of service, selflessness, courage and sacrifice, like his parents," the RSA said.

He grew up in the Coachella Valley and was a Junior Explorer at La Quinta High School.

Lopez was the son of Riverside Deputy Sheriff Alicia Lopez and Riverside Sheriff's Captain Herman Lopez, according to the RSA.

The Lopez family is requesting that any who wish to make donations to honor his memory contribute to the Riverside County Deputy Sheriff Relief Foundation.

A GoFundMe page has been established for Merola. Funds will go toward paying his funeral costs.