AURORA, Ill. (CBS/AP) — One of the two U.S. service members who was killed in Afghanistan on Saturday was identified as a young man from Aurora.

The City of Aurora identified the young soldier as Miguel Villalon, 21. He and his colleague are the first two U.S. servicemembers killed in 2020.

Miguel Villalon

Miguel Villalon of Aurora was one of two U.S. servicemen killed in Afghanistan on Saturday, Jan. 11, 2020. (Credit: City of Aurora)

Their vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb in southern Afghanistan, the U.S. military said in a statement Saturday. The Taliban immediately took responsibility for the attack.

Qari Yusouf Ahmadi, a Taliban spokesman, said it occurred in the southern Kandahar province.

The City of Aurora said Villalon was a proud graduate of East Aurora High School who was equally proud to serve in the Army and protect his country.

“Our prayers and condolences are with the Villalon family during this tragic time,” Aurora Mayor Richard C. Irvin, an Army veteran, said in a news release. “Miguel was a young soldier with dreams for the future and a desire to make a difference in the world today.

“Much like all of us who have left from our hometown of Aurora to serve our country, our goal is to do our job well and return to our family and friends,” Irvin continued in the release. “Sadly, Miguel made the ultimate sacrifice as he protected our freedom from the front lines. The City of Lights shines much dimmer because of this loss. We’ll stand with his family and provide support. Godspeed, young soldier.”

East Aurora School District 131 also released a statement.

“We are grateful to Miguel for his courage and service to our nation,” the statement said in part. “We extend our sincere condolences to Miguel’s family, friends, and all those who loved him.”

Villalon’s mother and other local family members were too distraught to speak with CBS 2’s Mike Puccinelli on Saturday night.

They will be meeting with officials from the U.S. Army on Sunday.

Officials have not released the name of the other soldier killed or two other service members who were injured in the attack.

More than 2,400 U.S. service members have been killed in Afghanistan. Last year was one of the deadliest even as the United States engaged in peace talks with the Taliban insurgents, who immediately took responsibility for the attack.

Earlier, both NATO and Afghan officials had confirmed a roadside bomb hit a U.S. army vehicle Saturday, without mentioning casualties. In a short statement, a NATO spokesman said that officials were still “assessing the situation and will provide more information as it became available.”
An Afghan official said the attack had taken place in the Dand district of Kandahar province. The official was not authorized to speak with media and requested anonymity.

The Taliban now control or hold sway over roughly half of Afghanistan. The militants continue to stage near-daily attacks targeting Afghan and U.S. forces, even as they hold peace talks with the U.S. Scores of Afghan civilians are also killed in the crossfire or by roadside bombs planted by militants.

In November, two U.S. service members were killed when their helicopter crashed in eastern Logar province. The U.S. military at the time said preliminary reports did not indicate it was caused by enemy fire, though the Taliban claimed to have shot down the helicopter – a claim the U.S military dismissed as false.

U.S. Ambassador John Bass left Kabul last week, ending his two-year tenure as America’s top diplomat.

(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

Mike Puccinelli