Navy SEAL Killed In Christian Village Near Mosul

AP photo by Cliff Owen

Another American service member has been killed in Iraq, Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced during a press conference in Germany on May 3, saying, “It is a combat death, of course. And a very sad loss.”

Carter provided few details of the circumstances surrounding the death, and the service member has yet to be identified, but reports from local media outlets have begun painting a clearer picture of what happened.

According to the Kurdish news site, Rudaw, the American, who, CNN reports, was a Navy SEAL advising local peshmerga forces, was killed during an intense firefight that erupted after 400 ISIS militants assaulted the Christian village of Teleskof, located less than 20 miles from the ISIS stronghold of Mosul.

The battle, which purportedly began with the detonation of two ISIS suicide bombers, failed to inflict peshmerga casualties, Rudaw reports.

Maj. Gen. Jaber Yawer, a peshmerga spokesman, told The Associated Press that the American was killed by ISIS sniper fire, confirming that the attack took place in the vicinity of Teleskof.

Teleskof, a tiny, ramshackle village surrounded by vast fields in the Nineveh Plain region of northern Iraq, has been under Kurdish control since ISIS was pushed from the area in 2014. Until now, it has remained relatively calm; though, Kurdish forces, backed by American aircraft and special operations forces, do occasionally clash with ISIS militants, who operate from a string of frontline villages only a few miles away.

A video posted on the Facebook page of Dwekh Nawsha, a local Christian militia based in the area that is one of the few in Iraq to openly accept Western volunteers into its ranks, shows what appears to be smoke from the explosions rising ominously in the distance.“The fight inside Teleskof,” reads the tagline. “Too many snipers from IS attack on the troops.”

This is the third American combat casualty suffered since the start of Operation Inherent Resolve. In March, a U.S. Marine was killed by ISIS rocket fire in the village of Makhmour, which is also located near Mosul. And in October 2015, an American special operations soldier was killed during a raid on an ISIS prison.

According to Rudaw, the ISIS militants have been driven out of Teleskof and the surrounding area with the help of U.S.-led coalition airstrikes.

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DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump traveled to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware on Saturday to receive the remains of four Americans killed in a suicide bombing in northern Syria.

Trump, locked in a battle with congressional Democrats that has led to a nearly month-long partial government shutdown, announced his trip via a pre-dawn tweet, saying he was going "to be with the families of 4 very special people who lost their lives in service to our Country!"

Trump told reporters on the South Lawn of the White House prior to departure that he planned to meet the families, a duty which he said "might be the toughest thing I have to do as president."

He was greeted by military staff at Dover Air Force Base after a short flight from Joint Base Andrews, but did not speak to reporters before entering his motorcade.

Flanked by military officials, Trump, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan filed up a ramp leading onto a military transport aircraft, where a prayer was given to honor the memory of Scott Wirtz, a civilian Department of Defense employee from St. Louis.

REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Trump filed down the plank and saluted while six service members clad in fatigues and white gloves carried an American flag-draped casket carrying Wirtz to a waiting gray van.

The Dover base is a traditional hub for returning the remains of American troops abroad.

The United States believes the attack that killed the Americans was the work of Islamic State militants.

Trump announced last month that he planned to speedily withdraw U.S. troops from Syria, but has since said it does not need to go quickly as he tries to ensure safety of Kurdish allies in northern Syria who are at risk of attack from neighboring Turkey.

Trump told reporters on Saturday that his Syria policy has made progress but that some work remained in destroying Islamic State targets. He defended his plans for a withdrawal.

"It's moving along very well, but when I took over it was a total mess. But you do have to ask yourself, we're killing ISIS for Russia, for Iran, for Syria, for Iraq, for a lot of other places. At some point you want to bring our people back home," he said.

In addition to Wirtz, those who died during the Wednesday attack in Manbij, Syria, were Army Chief Warrant Officer Jonathan Farmer, 37, of Boynton Beach, Florida, and Navy Chief Cryptologic Technician Shannon Kent, 35, identified as being from upstate New York, the Department of Defense said in a statement.

The Pentagon did not identify the fourth person killed, a contractor working for a private company. U.S. media identified her as Ghadir Taher, a 27-year-old employee of defense contractor Valiant Integrated Services.

(Reporting by Alexandra Alper; Writing by Steve Holland and David Brunnstrom; Editing by Leslie Adler)

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