Special to WorldTribune.com
The U.S. military’s second combat death in the fight against Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) occurred just days after a small outpost was opened in northern Iraq.
The outpost near Makhmur, called Firebase Bell, was meant to be kept secret until deemed operational but was quickly discovered and came under fire from ISIL rockets. A U.S. Marine was killed in the March 19 attack.
Related: Marine is second U.S. combat death in fight against ISIL, March 20, 2016
Staff Sgt. Louis F. Cardin, was killed in the ISIL attack. He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.
Firebase Bell is the first U.S. base in Iraq since U.S. President Barack Obama pulled U.S. forces out of the country four years ago.
Two weeks ago, the base caught the attention of Iranian-backed Shi’ite militia which are also fighting ISIL. The Iran-backed Shi’ites are hostile to the increased presence of Americans in Iraq and have vowed to treat U.S. Marines deployed there as “forces of occupation.”
Col. Steve Warren, spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition in Baghdad, said Firebase Bell was attacked again on March 21, this time by a squad of ISIL fighters who got close enough to the base to stage a failed attack with small arms.
Warren said there were no U.S. casualties in the March 21 attack while two ISIL fighters were killed.
“We are continuing to improve our fighting position, so to speak, to ensure that we’ve got the best ability to protect ourselves,” Warren told a Pentagon news briefing.
U.S. military officials said there is currently no plan for the Marine artillery unit to be used in any offensive mission to retake Mosul, but they wouldn’t rule it out.