Defense Secretary Carter: American killed in combat in Iraq

Defense Secretary Ash Carter arrives Monday, April 18, 2016, in Baghdad and is greeted by Lt. Gen. Sean MacFarland, top U.S. Commander for the fight against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. (AP Photo/Lolita C. Baldor)

BAGHDAD (AP) — U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said on Tuesday that an American serviceman has been killed in Iraq, describing it as a “combat death.”

The defense secretary, who spoke to reporters in Stuttgart, Germany, where he has been consulting with European allies this week on fighting the Islamic State group, provided no other details.

It was not immediately clear when the serviceman died but Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook said he was killed near Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city that has been in the hands of IS militants since they overran large swaths of northern and western Iraq in the summer of 2014.

“A Coalition service member was killed in northern Iraq as a result of enemy fire,” the U.S. Central Command, or CENTCOM, said in a statement. “Further information will be released as appropriate.” The statement noted the military’s the policy “to defer casualty identification procedures to the relevant national authorities.”

Meanwhile, a U.S. military official in Iraq said the American was killed while performing his duty as an adviser to the Kurdish peshmerga troops.

The soldier was killed by “direct fire” after Islamic State forces penetrated the peshmerga forces’ forward line, the official said. The American was three to two to three miles behind that front line, the official added, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.

Vice President Joe Biden visited Baghdad last week to exhort leaders of the government in Iraq to resolve internal political strife and concentrate on the effort to defeat the Islamic State group.

Carter, likewise, visited Baghdad recently. The Obama administration has been pressing the effort against IS, which has been slowed down in its quest to overrun Iraq.

Carter presided earlier at a ceremony installing a new commander of U.S. European Command, Army Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti.

This is the third death of a U.S. service member since the U.S.-led coalition’s operation against the Islamic State group began in the Summer of 2014.

The last killing of a U.S. service member in Iraq was in March, when a U.S. Marine stationed at Makhmour base outside the IS-held city of Mosul was killed by an IS rocket attack.

The first U.S. service member killed in Iraq was a special operations solider killed in a firefight in October 2015 during a raid on an Islamic State group prison.

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Burns reported from Stuttgart, Germany.

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