MOSCOW, October 25 (RIA Novosti) – 19-year-old US marine Lance Cpl. Sean P. Neal died in Baghdad, Iraq, on Thursday in what the US Department of Defense has described as a non-combat related incident, the Guardian reports.
It is the first officially confirmed US fatality in Iraq since the United States withdrew its troops from the country in 2011, as well as launched a campaign in August 2014 against the Islamic State (IS), a radical Sunni group, controlling large swathes of land in Iraq and Syria.
No details vis-à-vis the marine’s death have been released. An investigation of the incident is underway, the Pentagon reported in a news release.
Neal, hailing from Riverside, California, was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force - Crisis Response - Central Command. He specialized in the use of mortars. The marine, who came to Iraq in September, was one of 1,600 US servicemembers supporting the US-led international coalition in the region, now known as Operation Inherent Resolve.
US President Barack Obama has repeatedly stressed that there will be no ground operation in Iraq. Hence, the US troops there play a non-combat role serving as advisers to the Iraqi security forces.
Although Neal is confirmed to be the first US serviceman to die in Iraq, the United States has lost another member of its force, US marine Corporal Jordan Spears, 21, since the onset of the anti-IS campaign. He went missing on October 3 after an incident involving a V-22 Osprey. The rotorcraft appeared to be on the verge of crashing after it lost power soon after taking off from USS Makin Island in the Persian Gulf. The marine bailed out of the Osprey, but was never found and is presumed lost at sea.
The previous US military engagement in Iraq from 2003 to 2011 claimed the lives of 4,487 American servicemembers. Less than 300 died in 1991 Operation Desert Storm, also known as the First Iraq War.
Launched on August 7, Operation Inherent Resolve originally involved airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Iraq. In September, it was extended to include targets in Syria. Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon’s press secretary, has described the mission not just sound, but effective, according to the agency’s statement. “The coalition continues to gain both momentum and strength,” Kirby stated, adding that the operation directly affects the Islamists in the region.