A U.S. Soldier was killed in the battle against Islamic State in Northern Iraq on Saturday. According to U.S. military and Iraqi officials, it’s the second casualty in combat against the Islamic State.
Our deepest condolences to the family of the US service member killed today in ISIS attack on Makhmour https://t.co/4jNSM7dsdI
— KRG-USA (@KRG_USA) March 19, 2016
The Washington Post is reporting that Islamic State militants fired two mortars into a small U.S. base in Makhmour, a town controlled by Kurdish peshmerga forces on the outskirts of the region of Kurdistan. U.S. military officials claim it was a rocket attack.
An Iraqi officer in Makhmour said that the attack happened around 9:30 a.m. Saturday morning in the small camp where United States troops have been working with peshmerga forces and the Iraqi army to fight Islamic State militants. The hope was to organize a future offensive attack to take back the Iraqi city of Mosul which has been controlled by the Islamic State since June, 2014.
Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook confirmed the death in a statement. He said the Marine was “providing force protection fire support at a recently established coalition fire base near Makhmour in northern Iraq.”
There are reports of other injuries from the Islamic State attack, but the number is less than five a U.S. defense official told Fox News.
“It was a lucky strike by ISIS,” the official said.
This is the second soldier killed since the war on the Islamic State began in August, 2014. Army Master Sgt. Joshua L. Wheeler, of Roland, Oklahoma, died in a brave rescue attempt in October of 2015. His death was the first American casualty since the United States withdrew troops in 2011.
There are currently around 3,700 U.S. troops on the ground advising the Iraqi army in the war on the Islamic State. In December, Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced that 200 special operations task force members were being sent to Northern Iraq to begin kill/capture missions against the Islamic State.
— Sputnik (@SputnikInt) March 19, 2016
Iraqi army reinforcements have been sent to Makhmour in recent weeks as the United States and Iraqi forces prepare to launch an offensive attack to take back Mosul from the Islamic State militants. An official said that mortars are constantly aimed at the Iraqi army base there and that it was unclear if the Islamic State was targeting the U.S. or Iraqi base.
Brett McGurk, who is the U.S. special envoy to the task force against the Islamic State, wouldn’t say when the full-scale offensive attack to take back Mosul would commence, but he did say parts of the process of already begun.
“It’s already started.. . . It’s a slow steady squeeze,” he told a forum at the American University of Iraq at Sulaymaniyah.
He did say that a full-bore offensive likely won’t happen anytime soon.
“It’s going to be a long campaign,” he said. “Mosul, that will be one of the biggest tests.”
In February, the task force captured a mid-level Islamic State militant who was tied to the group’s chemical weapons program. He has since been turned over to Iraqi forces after weeks of interrogation. It was the second time in the last nine months that an Islamic State official was captured in battle.
Last May, a Delta Force operation killed Islamic State member Abu Sayyaf and captured his wife, Umm Sayyaf, in Syria. Umm was recently charged by the United States Justice Department with conspiracy to kill American aide worker Kayla Mueller, who was held hostage by the Sayyafs. Mueller was forced to become a sex slave for Islamic State emir, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
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