A captain based at Pendleton was one of three Marines killed Friday in Helmand province by an Afghan police officer with whom he had just shared a meal, it was reported Saturday.
Matt Manoukian, 29, was killed after being invited by an Afghan police commander to a meeting in Sangin district, long a Taliban stronghold, to discuss security issues, U-T San Diego reported.
Before the meeting, Manoukian and the other two Marines killed shared a meal with their killer.
The attack was the third of its kind in a week. The shooter, identified as member of the Afghan National Police, got away, the newspaper reported.
Taliban spokesman Qari Yousef Ahmadi told The U-T the attacker joined the insurgency after his attack Friday.
“Now, he is with us,” Ahmadi said.
In July, Manounkian told The U-T he trusted Afghan forces as his partners in a joint mission of “security, governance and development. It’s a full-spectrum operation.”
In 25 attacks this year, 31 U.S. coalition service members have died at the hands of Afghan forces or insurgents disguised in Afghan uniforms, according to NATO. There were 11 such attacks and 20 deaths last year, according to an Associated Press count. Each of the previous two years saw five such attacks.
Manoukian, the son of two judges, joined the Marine Corps about seven years ago. The Arabic-speaking officer was on his fourth deployment, his second to Afghanistan.
“He loved the Marines,” said his father, Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Socrates “Peter” Manoukian.
“He loved America. He loved people who were different than him. He was the ultimate tough guy, and if he was on your side, you were going to have a good day.”
At 6 feet 3 inches, was offered a chance to walk on to the football team at UCLA, his father said, but decided to attend the University of Arizona, where he earned a bachelor's degree in political science in 2005.
Peter Manoukian, whose family is of Armenian heritage, said his son talked about becoming a Marine since he was 10. He said his son bonded with the Afghan people and helped open a school and set up a police station in Anbar province, among other things.
“We were always worried because we knew he would always run to trouble. He wanted to help. He was a heat-seeking missile,” his father said.
The deployment was to be Manoukian’s last, his father said, adding that his son had been accepted at a law school.
He is also survived by his mother, Associate Justice Patricia Bamattre-Manoukian, a member of the California Court of Appeal’s Sixth Appellate District since 1989; and brothers Michael, 27, and Martin, 22.
His family and local Marines were making funeral arrangements Friday.
The Santa Clara Bar Association posted condolences Friday, and quoted Presiding Judge Richard J. Loftus Jr.: “On behalf of the entire Court family, I wish to express our profound sorrow. Matt was killed in action serving his country and the death of this amazing man is a tremendous loss to our community and nation. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Manoukian family.”
—City News Service contributed to this report.