The Pentagon is investigating whether the two Army Rangers were killed by ground fire from Afghan commandos or other American forces during a raid this week on an ISIS stronghold.
“We are investigating the circumstances of the combat deaths of the two Army Rangers in the beginning of what was an intense three-hour firefight,” Pentagon spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis said during a briefing Friday when he released the names of the service members killed, according to Reuters . “It is possible these Rangers were struck by friendly fire.”
Sgt. Joshua P. Rodgers, 22 and Sgt. Cameron H. Thomas, 23 were killed by small arms fire during a raid targeting the emir of the Afghan branch of the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) in Nangarhar province, according to the Pentagon.
One other Army Ranger received a minor head wound during the battle, but was able to stay with the assault force.
The raid was conducted by 50 Army rangers and 40 Afghan commandos. The Pentagon said the two men were killed in the opening moments of a firefight with last three hours and included airstrikes by drones, AC-130 and Apache gunships and F016 fighter jets. The military said the soldiers came under fire from “360 degrees.”
“This was a dangerous mission and we knew this going in,” Davis told Pentagon reporters, according to AP.“This was the leader of ISIS in Afghanistan. We knew that he was going to be well protected and that they were going to fight very hard to prevent him from being captured or killed. And that is indeed what happened.”
The US has not confirmed whether Hasid was killed in the raid. About 35 IS fighters and several IS leaders were killed, according to the Pentagon.
The firefight took place south of the IS cave targeted in April by 11-ton bomb that was alleged to have killed over 90 Islamic State fighters.
The US has been battling Islamic State in Afghanistan for months and estimates that the group now includes about some 800 to 1,000 fighters there.
Rodgers was from Bloomington, Illinois and Thomas from Kettering, Ohio. Both were on their third deployments to Afghanistan and assigned to a Ranger regiment based out of Fort Benning, Georgia.