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US Service Member Killed in Blast Near Mosul

FILE - An improvised explosive device planted by Islamic State fighters explodes in front of Iraqi special forces vehicles in Bartella, east of Mosul, Iraq, Oct. 20, 2016.

A U.S. service member was killed Saturday in an explosion near Mosul, in northern Iraq, the Pentagon said in a statement.

The statement said the service member died of wounds sustained in “an explosive device blast” outside of Mosul.

U.S. Central Command, which oversees military activity in the region, did not identify the victim and said it would release more information when appropriate.

U.S.-backed forces launched an effort in October 2016 to retake Mosul from the Islamic State (IS). Much of northern and western Iraq, including Mosul, fell to the militant group in summer 2014.

Earlier this week, an Iraq senior military commander said Iraqi troops had driven IS out of the largest neighborhood in the western half of Mosul after weeks of combat. The eastern half of Mosul had been declared fully liberated in January.

The death of the U.S. service member Saturday was the second since the start of the operation to retake Mosul last year. In October, Navy chief petty officer Jason Finan, 34, of Anaheim, California, died of wounds sustained in a roadside bomb attack north of Mosul.

The Pentagon has acknowledged more than 100 U.S. special operations forces are operating with Iraqi units in and around Mosul, with hundreds more playing a support role in staging bases farther from the front lines.

There are now more U.S. forces in Iraq than any time since the 2011 U.S. withdrawal, marking an intensifying war as Iraqi forces and the U.S.-led coalition work to push IS out of the last pockets of territory the extremists control in Iraq.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.