Islamic State jihadists wounded one U.S. service member in the vicinity of the Kurdish capital of Erbil in northern Iraq and another north of the terrorist group’s de-facto capital of Raqqa in Syria last weekend, according to the Pentagon.
Both injuries were caused by “indirect fire” and were serious enough to prevent the American troops from returning to duty, Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, told reporters, according to the Military Times.
“In both cases, these were people operating behind the forward line of troops. They were not on the front lines; they were not engaged in active combat. … They were not out trigger-pulling offensively,” Davis reportedly said on Tuesday.
The Military Times noted that the spokesman’s comments marked the first time the U.S. military had publicly disclosed a casualty among service members deployed to Syria.
Obama administration officials had been hesitant to admit that U.S. troops are engaged in combat against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, insisting they are only conducting train-advise-and-assist missions.
However, President Barack Obama admitted for the first time on Memorial Day that the three U.S. troops killed by ISIS jihadists in the past year had, in fact, died while conducting combat operations.
“In Iraq, in our fight against ISIL, three Americans have given their lives in combat on our behalf. And today, I ask you to remember their stories, as well,” declared Obama.
U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter has also conceded that some troops fighting ISIS have died in combat.
The Military Times notes that the three U.S. service members killed by ISIS include:
- Special Warfare Operator 1st Class Charles Keating IV, who died on May 3 when his quick reaction force was trying to save an advise-and-assist team that came under attack by ISIS militants.
- Marine Staff Sgt. Louis Cardin, who died on March 20 when an ISIS rocket hit his artillery base, known as Firebase Bell, near the Iraqi town of Makhmour.
- Army Master Sgt. Joshua Wheeler, who died on Oct. 22 in a raid with Kurdish forces on an ISIS detention facility.
“In Syria, the service member was injured in the area north of Raqqa, where teams of U.S. special operations troops are supporting several rebel groups advancing toward the Islamic State’s self-declared capital,” the Military Times quotes Davis as saying.
President Barack Obama has authorized 300 U.S. special operations troops for deployment to Syria.
“Both incidents involved indirect fire from Islamic State militants, also known as ISIS or ISIL,” reports the Military Times, later quoting Davis as saying, “Neither incident involved a large-scale attack or evidence of an unusually large ISIS force,” and “the troops’ injuries were severe enough to prevent them from being returned to duty.”
According to military data, three American troops have been killed in action, and 15 others have been injured since the start of Operation Inherent Resolve in Iraq and Syria in 2014.