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