Associated Press – May 5, 2016
Islamic State has broken through Kurdish defences in northern Iraq and killed a US Navy SEAL deployed as part of the US-led coalition against the jihadists.
The attack came as the UN said fighting with Islamic State in northern Iraq could displace another 30,000 people, adding to millions who have already fled their homes.
In Baghdad, throngs of Shia pilgrims braved the threat of bombings by Islamic State, which have killed dozens of people in recent days, to take part in a major annual religious commemoration.
The sailor from the special operations force was the third coalition member killed by enemy fire in Iraq since Islamic State overran swaths of the country in 2014.
Arizona Governor Doug Ducey yesterday identified the fallen SEAL as Charlie Keating IV, 31, a former star schoolboy distance runner and grandson of an Arizona financier involved in one of the 1980s most notorious savings and loan scandals. He was also the cousin of former Olympic swimming champion Gary Hall Jr.
US President Barack Obama hailed the 2011 withdrawal of American troops from Iraq as a major accomplishment of his presidency, but US forces have been drawn back into combat in the country against Islamic State.
Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said the death occurred during an Islamic State attack on one of the Kurdish Peshmerga forces’ positions north of Iraq’s jihadist-held second city of Mosul.
A US defence official said the SEAL’s death was the result of “an orchestrated attack”.
A coalition military official said the American was killed at 9.30am on Tuesday by “direct fire” after “enemy forces penetrated” the Peshmerga line.
He was a member of a “small team” present at a Peshmerga encampment behind the original frontline during the Islamic State attack, which involved explosives-rigged vehicles, bulldozers and infantry, the official said.
“They fought, but they’re a small number and they’re not supposed to be in direct contact,” the official said.
The team departed by American helicopter after the SEAL was shot.
Kurdish forces are deployed in Nineveh province, whose capital, Mosul, is Islamic State’s main hub in the country.
Islamic State attacked the Peshmerga in multiple areas of northern Iraq on Tuesday to “thwart the plan to liberate Mosul”, said Jabbar Yawar, the secretary-general of the autonomous Kurdish region’s Peshmerga ministry.
Iraq’s Joint Operations Command said Islamic State overran the Tal Asquf area and the group employed suicide bombers.
Tal Asquf is a small Christian town whose population fled in 2014. According to the Kurdistan Region Security Council, the town was “completely cleared” of Islamic State fighters later on Tuesday.
Romeo Hekari, who heads a Christian unit fighting Islamic State under Peshmerga command, also said Tal Asquf was back under full control.
The US announced last month that it was deploying additional forces to Iraq, bringing the official total to more than 4000.
The coalition is carrying out daily airstrikes against Islamic State, and 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 Islamic State, and US marines to provide artillery support.