NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/CBS News/AP) — An NYPD detective was among the six U.S. service members killed in a suicide bombing near the Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan Monday, police Commissioner Bill Bratton announced.
Detective Joseph Lemm was a 15-year veteran of the NYPD and was promoted to detective in January 2014, serving the Bronx Warrant Squad, Bratton said in a statement. He also served in the U.S. National Guard and had been deployed three times – twice to Afghanistan and once to Iraq, Bratton said.
He left behind a wife and three children.
“Tonight, we grieve and we remember this selfless public servant who dedicated his life to protecting others,” Bratton said in a statement.
Mayor Bill de Blasio issued a statement, noting that Lemm’s death came just after the one-year anniversary of the murder of two police officers in Brooklyn.
“Just one day after the city marked the anniversary of the assassinations of Detectives Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu, today’s horrible news serves as a painful reminder of the debts we owe to the brave men and women in uniform who put themselves in harm’s way each and every single day in order to keep us all safe,” de Blasio said in part in the statement.
“There can be no greater sacrifice than the one made by a member of our military or our police force, who put their lives on the line to protect Americans. Detective Joseph Lemm did both for 15 years,” The mayor continued in the statement. “He gave his life, yet asked for little in return other than to serve his country and his fellow New Yorkers, who may not have known him in life, but mourn his death nonetheless.”
New York state Gov. Andrew Cuomo also released a statement commemorating Lemm.
“Staff Sgt. Joe Lemm was committed to his fellow Americans, and embodied the selflessness and bravery of the U.S. Armed Forces and the NYPD,” Cuomo said in the statement. “I join all New Yorkers in mourning his loss, as well as the loss of the other victims of this horrific attack. They will be greatly missed.”
Blue bunting was hanging late Monday outside the 50th Precinct police station, where the Bronx Warrant Squad is based, CBS2’s Jessica Schneider reported.
The attacker, who was on a motorbike, also wounded another three Americans, according to U.S. Army Brig. Gen William Shoffner, head of public affairs at NATO’s Resolute Support base in the Afghan capital Kabul.
Two of those injured were service members while the 3rd was a U.S. government contractor.
They were on a security patrol on foot when the explosive laden motorbike rammed into them at a location known to be a meeting place nearby Bagram airfield, which is the largest U.S. military installation remaining in Afghanistan, reported CBS News’ Margaret Brennan.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the suicide bombing, which was the largest attack on foreign forces in Afghanistan since August.
Shoffner said it happened at around 1:30 p.m. local time in the vicinity of Bagram, the largest U.S. military facility in Afghanistan.
“We’re deeply saddened by this loss,” Shoffner said. “On behalf of General Campbell and all of Resolute Support, our heartfelt sympathies go out to the families and friends of those affected in this tragic incident, especially during this holiday season.”
Mohammad Asim Asim, governor of Parwan province, where Bagram is located, said that a suicide bomber rammed an explosives-laden motorcycle into the combined NATO-Afghan foot patrol as it moved through a village close to the base, which is 28 miles north of Kabul.
He also said that two Afghan police officers were wounded in the attack.
It is the first major attack on a NATO military convoy since August 22, when three American contractors with the RS base were killed in a suicide attack on their convoy in Kabul. On August 7 and 8, Kabul was the scene of three insurgent attacks within 24 hours that left at least 35 people dead. One of the attacks, on a U.S. special operations forces base outside Kabul left one U.S soldier and eight Afghan civilian contractors dead.
Hours after the suicide bombing, several rockets hit an area of Kabul housing foreign embassies and government buildings. No casualties were immediately reported but a State Department official told CBS News that U.S. Embassy staff was told to shelter in place.
Monday’s attack came as Taliban gunmen and government forces battled for control of a strategic district in the southern province of Helmand after it was overrun by Taliban insurgents, delivering a serious blow to government forces.
The U.S. now has about 9,800 troops in Afghanistan, some of which are involved in counterterrorism missions. With NATO contributions, there are about 13,000 foreign troops in Afghanistan.