One Marine was killed and several others wounded Saturday when a recently established coalition fire base near Makhmur in northern Iraq came under rocket fire by Islamic State militants, also known as ISIS or ISIL. The unidentified Marine was providing force protection fire support, according to Pentagon officials.
"This is the second combat death since the start of Operation Inherent Resolve, and it reminds us of the risks our men and women in uniform face everyday," said Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook. "Our thoughts and prayers are with the service members involved, their families and their coalition teammates who will continue the fight against ISIL with resolve and determination."
Army Master Sgt. Joshua Wheeler, 39, was the last American servicemember to be killed in combat in Iraq. He died in October.
The Nineveh Operations Center in the farming village of Makhmour is a primary base supporting the Iraqis' long-awaited battle to seize Mosul. It is the headquarters and command center for the Iraqi army's 15th Division, a unit that participated in an American-led training program last year. Iraq's military leaders plan to deploy about 4,500 soldiers to the area for the Mosul operation, Iraqi officials said in February.
Makhmour is along the edge of the Kurdish-controlled territory near the ISIS-held Tigris River valley. It is also and is near the site of a mustard gas attack last year and also a foiled ISIS attempt to launch chlorine gas rounds. Last August, Islamic State militants ISIL-fired chemical weapons landed near Makhmour in August and sickened dozens of Kurdish troops. U.S. military officials later confirmed that the shards of spent mortar shells tested positive for mustard gas, also known as "HD."
There are about 3,700 American forces deployed throughout Iraq.