Baghdad – On Tuesday, an American Navy SEAL was killed in northern Iraq about 9:30 a.m., as a result of an attack by Islamic State militants, Pentagon officials confirmed. A U.S. military official said the death occurred after ISIS fighters penetrated a front line of Kurdish Peshmerga forces about three to five kilometers north of Mosul, as reported by The Washington Post.
The identity of the SEAL, whose death was caused by a bullet, will be withheld until his family members have been notified.
The serviceman, whose rank remains unclear, was an adviser to Peshmerga forces fighting the terror group. Peter Cook, Pentagon press secretary, said in a statement on Tuesday that the Navy SEAL died about five kilometers behind the forward line of troops.
The U.S. military reacted with F-15s and drones which dropped more than 20 bombs, a U.S. official said. Defense Secretary Ash Carter told reporters in Germany that the unfortunate news reflect the serious fight the United States is waging in Iraq, adding that the American coalition was committed to honoring the serviceman by putting an end to the threat ISIS poses to the world.
The death of the Navy SEAL marks the third U.S. combat casualty since the summer of 2014, when forces were redeployed to Iraq with the purpose of serving as advisers to local fighters and carry out special operations against ISIS, also known as ISIL.
Before the serviceman who was killed on Tuesday, Marine Staff Sgt. Louis F. Cardin died in March in a rocket attack on a U.S. base located in northern Iraq, according to CNN. And U.S. Army Master Sgt. Joshua Wheeler marked the first American casualty in October 2015 during a rescue mission in northern Iraq.
A Kurdish official said the death occurred near the largely Christian town of Telskuf, located about 20 miles north of the Islamic State’ main stronghold in Iraq, Mosul. The official added that militants used “truck bombs supported by infantry,” according to the Post.
A member of the Christian militia that held the ground in Telskuf said attacks began targeting front lines around 4 a.m. According to commanders, hundreds of fighters conducted a multi-pronged attack on the town from at least four directions after ISIS hit the area on Tuesday.
The role of U.S. troops in Iraq
With a gradually deepening role, the U.S. was directly involved in the latest battle against ISIS in Iraq.
Matthew VanDyke, an American fighting alongside the Christian militia, said that about 20 Navy SEALS arrived shortly after Telskuf was lost at around 6:00 a.m. and went straight into the fight, advancing in a convoy with Peshmerga forces. VanDyke pointed out that ISIS militants sent car bombs every time U.S. backed-forces tried to advance.
Peshmerga reinforcements arrived when the SEALS, involved in direct action, ran low on ammunition.
Commanders said Islamic State militants took control of the town until an offensive was conducted to recapture Telskuf with the help of U.S. air power. By late afternoon on Tuesday, the town was again out of ISIS control.
“Today’s incident is a vivid reminder of the risk our service members are taking, and three of them now have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country”, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said.
However, he remarked that the American mission in Iraq is to support Iraqi forces on the ground where the fight against the Islamic State is taking place.
“Iraqi forces must fight for their own country,” he stressed, adding that U.S. troops are not tasked with acting “as a substitute” for Iraqi forces.
Source: Washington Post