Three SoCal Marines Among American Service Members Killed in Afghanistan Suicide Bombing

They were among the 13 American service members killed Thursday at the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul.

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Three U.S. Marines from Southern California were among the American service members killed in a suicide bombing in Afghanistan.

Lance Corporal Kareem Nikoui, a Norco High School graduate, Corporal Hunter Lopez, 22, of Riverside, and Lance Corporal Dylan R. Merola, from Rancho Cucamonga were killed in a suicide bombing at the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul.

Lopez is the son of a Riverside Deputy Sheriff.

"With a heavy heart, we announce the passing of a beloved member of the Riverside Sheriff's family, United States Marine Corps Corporal Hunter Lopez, one of 13 United States service members killed at the Kabul airport during the U.S. led evacuation effort," said the Riverside Sheriff's Association in a statement. "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."

Lopez was a Riverside Sheriff's Explorer Scout with the Palm Desert Station from 2014 to 2017, the statement said. He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines. He planned to be a Riverside County Sheriff's Deputy after returning from his current deployment, they said.

"Today the entire law enforcement community stands with the Lopez family, friends, fellow Marines, and all who loved him, praying for comfort, peace."

The Lopez family requests that all donations be made to the Riverside County Deputy Sheriff Relief Foundation in the name of the Lopez Family. The address is 21810 Cactus Avenue, Riverside, CA 92518.

The city of Norco put out a statement Friday about Nikoui.

He graduated from Norco High School in 2019 and served in JROTC, the city said.

He is survived by his mother, father and siblings.

The city said his name will be enshrined on the "Lest We Forget Wall" at the George A. Ingalls Veterans Memorial Plaza. The wall honors residents from Norco who made the ultimate sacrifice while serving the country.

"The City of Norco respectfully salutes the service members who paid the ultimate sacrifice in Kabul, Afghanistan, and our thoughts and prayers are with their families during this difficult time."

The mother and uncle of Lance Corporal, Dylan R. Merola, confirmed to NBC4 on Friday evening, that her son was among the fallen soldiers.

Merola's uncle shared the following statement about his nephew:

"Dylan loved doing stage set up and technical theater at Los Osos High School in Rancho Cucamonga. He was the kind of person who would always be there for his friends and just enjoyed hanging out with family for family cook nights. They would hike, fish, kayak and spend time just being together. He will be truly missed and always in our hearts."

Governor Newsom released the following statement on Saturday morning: 

“California joins the nation in mourning the tragic loss of 13 U.S. service members, including those from California, and many other innocent victims in this heinous attack. Our heroic troops gave their lives to protect others amid harrowing and dangerous conditions, and we will never forget their bravery and selfless sacrifice in service to our nation. Jennifer and I send our deepest condolences to all the families grieving the loss of loved ones and offer our best wishes for the recovery of the service members who were injured. We stand with the Afghan American community during this difficult time.”

The Governor has also ordered flags at all state buildings to be flown at half-staff in honor of the victims.

They were among the 13 American service members killed Thursday at the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul. The killings prompted President Joe Biden to vow to hunt down the killers.

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