Two U.S. service members died during a March 8 fight with Islamic State group militants in northern Iraq.
The Americans were killed while advising and accompanying Iraqi security forces during a mission targeting an IS stronghold in a mountainous area, according to a March 9 U.S. Central Command release. The U.S.-led force had to deploy additional personnel to the area to recover the casualties in an effort that took about six hours, according to The New York Times. IS forces were reportedly barricaded in caves in the area.
The two are the first Americans to die in Iraq since last August, when a U.S. Marine was killed in another joint operation alongside Iraqi forces. Their names and service branches will not be released until their next of kin are notified.
U.S. forces have been fighting IS alongside local forces in the region since Operation Inherent Resolve began in 2014. Recent efforts have focused on supporting allied fighters instead of direct action against the terror group. In January, U.S. and coalition aircraft released 68 weapons on IS targets in Iraq and Syria, the second lowest monthly total since the operation began, according to Air Forces Central Command.