US investigating possible case of ‘friendly fire’ in Iraq

The US military announced Tuesday that a US contractor was killed in Iraq Saturday during an incident that also resulted in the death of a US Marine.

US contractor Saif Rashaed and Gunnery Sgt. Scott A. Koppenhafer “gave the ultimate sacrifice in service to our country,” US Central Command said in a statement.

“We will not forget their sacrifice. As we mourn their loss, we are reminded of the significant dangers our men and women face while serving our nation,” the statement added.

The Department of Defense said in an updated statement Tuesday that Koppenhafer “died August 10, 2019, in Iraq, after suffering fatal wounds while supporting Iraqi Security Forces,” and that “this incident is under investigation.” The Pentagon on Sunday had initially said that Koppenhafer had died as a result of “enemy small arms fire while conducting combat operations.”

Friendly fire possibility

A US defense official told CNN that the investigation will be looking at the circumstances surrounding Koppenhafer’s death, including a possibility that he was killed by “friendly fire.” The official added, however, that this is only one of the possible scenarios being examined and that it is possible that he died due to enemy action.

The Wall Street Journal was the first to report that friendly fire was being looked at as a possible cause of death.

The US has some 5,200 troops in Iraq where they primarily advise and assist Iraqi forces as they battle the remnants of ISIS.

While the terror group has been driven from major population centers, it has retained a presence in Iraq, with a Pentagon Inspector General’s report warning earlier this month that ISIS had “solidified its insurgent capabilities in Iraq” in recent months.

Last month the US-led military coalition battling ISIS conducted 33 air or artillery strikes against ISIS targets in Iraq, targeting fighters, buildings, tunnels, weapons caches, and vehicles, according to a coalition statement.