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US Navy SEAL Killed by Enemy Fire During IS Offensive in Iraq

FILE - A rocket is fired from a rocket launcher outside Makhmour, about 75 km (47 miles) east of Mosul, Iraq, March 25, 2016.

FILE - A rocket is fired from a rocket launcher outside Makhmour, about 75 km (47 miles) east of Mosul, Iraq, March 25, 2016.

A U.S. Navy SEAL has been killed by enemy fire during an Islamic State attack on a Kurdish Peshmerga position in northern Iraq.

Arizona governor Doug Ducey identified the fallen SEAL as Charlie Keating IV of Phoenix.

Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook said Keating, 31, was "advising and assisting Peshmerga forces" north of the city of Mosul when they came under attack.

"The casualty occurred during an ISIL attack on a Peshmerga position approximately three to five kilometers behind the forward line of troops," he said in a statement.

Enemy fighters had beached the front line held by the Kurds during the attack, a defense official told VOA

The SEAL sustained at least one gunshot wound during the assault and was evacuated from the battlefield for medical treatment before dying from his injuries, a second defense official said.

This is the third U.S. combat death in Iraq since the U.S.-led coalition began its campaign against Islamic State in 2014.

IS offensive

IS militants launched a multi-front offensive at dawn on Tuesday, hitting various Kurdish frontline positions north and south of Mosul. The militants used a combination of heavy weapons, vehicle-borne and body-borne suicide attackers in attempts to breach the frontline held mainly by Peshmerga forces backed by U.S. advisers and coalition airstrikes.

Kurdish forces later claimed to have have completely cleared two towns that came under attack by IS Tuesday. The Kurdistan Region Security Council said via Twitter that Telskuf and Musqelat were cleared with help from coalition airstrikes, killing more than 80 IS fighters while destroying 25 IS vehicles used in the attacks. It was not possible to independently verify the casualty numbers.

"I commend our brave Peshmerga & commanders for defeating ISIS in today's attack and demonstrating Kurdistan remains a graveyard for terrorists,” Kurdistan Region Security Council Chancellor Masrour Barzani said via his own Twitter account, adding "My heartfelt condolences are with the families of our fallen Peshmerga and the brave U.S. serviceman martyred earlier today.”

Intense fighting

Peshmerga Gen. Hamid Afandi said the fighting had been particularly intense in Telskuf, some 30 kilometers north of Mosul.

"It was a very huge attack. IS had control for about to to three hours, then they were pushed back. There were a lot of airstrikes," said Afandi.

A U.S. military statement said coalition forces conducted seven airstrikes near Mosul, hitting six IS tactical units, vehicles, weapons caches and a mortar system. Four more strikes south of Mosul hit a "large tactical unit" and destroyed 19 rocket rails.

The IS attacks appeared to be an attempt to push back an ongoing but slow-moving Iraqi forces' offensive aimed at retaking the IS stronghold of Mosul.

Carter reacts

The latest US fatality in the fight against IS was initially announced Tuesday in Germany by Defense Secretary Ash Carter.

“It’s a serious fight that we have to wage in Iraq, Carter said. “A very sad loss."

Cook added that the sad news is a reminder of the dangers faced every day by U.S. service members in the ongoing fight to end the threat Islamic State "poses to the United States and the rest of the world.".

VOA National Security Correspondent Jeff Seldin contributed to this report from Washington; Ali Javanmardi reported from Irbil

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    Carla Babb

    Carla is VOA's Pentagon correspondent covering defense and international security issues. Her datelines include Ukraine, Turkey, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq and Korea.

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    Sharon Behn

    Sharon Behn is a foreign correspondent working out of Voice of America’s headquarters in Washington D.C  Her current beat focuses on political, security and humanitarian developments in Iraq, Syria and Turkey. Follow Sharon on Twitter and on Facebook.