Islamic State militants killed a U.S. Navy SEAL in northern Iraq on Tuesday after blasting through Kurdish defenses and overrunning a town in the biggest offensive in the area in months, officials said. The elite serviceman was the third American to be killed in direct combat since a U.S.-led coalition launched a campaign in 2014 to destroy ISIS and is a measure of its deepening involvement in the conflict. One official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the Navy SEAL was killed “by direct fire” while on a mission to advise and assist local forces in Iraq.
It is a combat death, of course, and a very sad loss.
U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter
Such ISIS incursions are rare in northern Iraq, where the Kurdish peshmerga have pushed the militants back with the help of coalition airstrikes and set up defensive lines that the militants are rarely able to breach. While most American forces on the ground in Iraq play advisory and support roles, Washington has also deployed special forces to carry out raids against the Islamic State and U.S. Marines to provide artillery support. Though ISIS has been broadly retreating since December, when the Iraqi army recaptured Ramadi, U.S. officials acknowledge that the military gains against the militant group are not enough.