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More incoming Islamic State fire for Marines at Fire Base Bell

U.S. Marines with Task Force Spartan, 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), on Fire Base Bell, Iraq, fire an M777A2 Howitzer at an ISIS infiltration route March 18, 2016.

ANDRE DAKIS/U.S. MARINE CORPS

By TARA COPP | STARS AND STRIPES Published: April 1, 2016

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Marine task force at Fire Base Bell has taken more enemy fire as it aids the Iraqi Army in the battle to recapture Mosul, Operation Inherent Resolve spokesman Col. Steve Warren said Friday.

Task Force Spartan, part of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, was inserted into the fight a few weeks ago to provide fire support and protection for Iraqi forces and their U.S. trainers in Makhmour, a city about 75 miles southeast of Mosul. The Marines came under attack by the Islamic State militants almost immediately, resulting in the death of Staff Sgt. Louis F. Cardin and injuring eight other Marines.

Since then, the Marines at the artillery base have provided offensive fire in support of “Operation Valley Wolf,” an attack launched last week by the Iraqi Army’s 15th Division to begin to take villages south of Mosul. The Islamic State group captured Mosul during the summer of 2014 and continues to use the city as its defacto capital in Iraq.

In the new operation, the Iraqi Army is fighting in a series of villages about 30 miles northwest of Makhmour and “will help set the conditions for the liberation of Mosul,” Warren said.

In support of that operation, the Marines have provided artillery fire against Islamic State fighters using four 155 mm M777A2 Howitzer cannons.

“Those guns have been firing, probably daily,” Warren said.

The unit has also taken a “handful” of incoming rockets fired from Islamic State positions since the last fatal attack. But the rockets have not resulted in any injuries, Warren said.

The Marines have not moved from the base, and no other similar fire bases have been established, he said.

The 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit is scheduled to rotate out of the region soon. But the roughly 200 Marines with Task Force Spartan will remain in Iraq, Warren said.

“Those Marines have been detached from the 26th and attached to us here,” he said. “The MEU will continue on its way.”

Copp.tara@stripes.com
Twitter:@TaraCopp