Two Marines and Navy Sailor Are Investigated in Contractor’s Death

WASHINGTON — Two Marines and a Navy corpsman stationed in northern Iraq are being investigated in the death of an American civilian contractor last week, two Defense Department officials said on Monday.

The contractor was severely wounded in what officials described as a physical altercation on New Year’s Eve in Erbil, the capital of the semiautonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq. The contractor, who worked for Lockheed Martin, was evacuated to Landstuhl, Germany, and pronounced dead on Jan. 4.

The two Defense Department officials confirmed the death on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the continuing investigation.

Ed Buice, a spokesman for the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, said in an email that the agency “does not discuss the details of ongoing investigations.”

In a statement, Lockheed Martin said it “was saddened to learn of the loss of one of our employees, who was fatally injured while supporting Special Operations Forces within the Operation Inherent Resolve area of operations in a noncombat-related incident.”

Lockheed did not identify the victim but said, “Our thoughts are with his family and friends, and we are committed to supporting them during this difficult time.” Officials also would not identify the suspects in the case.

The two Marines and the sailor were assigned to a Marine Special Operations unit, a small contingent of troops deployed to Iraq to advise Iraqi and Kurdish forces.

The episode highlights the continuing concerns about misconduct within the ranks of the American military’s elite forces.

Last year, two members of SEAL Team 6 and two Marines were charged in the 2017 strangling of an American Green Beret in Mali.

Other American commando units are under investigation in crimes in Iraq, Afghanistan and the United States, including the deadly stabbing of a wounded Islamic State militant and the beating of an Afghan detainee.

The Pentagon, at Congress’s direction, is studying the matter and will issue its conclusions in the coming months.

In December 2017, the Iraqi government declared an end to combat operations against the Islamic State after reclaiming territory that the extremist group had seized across the country in 2014. Roughly 5,000 American troops are stationed in Iraq, tasked with training the Iraqi military and launching airstrikes and counterterrorism raids against the remnants of the extremists.

Last month, President Trump announced plans to withdraw all 2,000 American troops from Syria and will likely reduce by half the 14,000 forces in Afghanistan in the coming months. However, during a trip to a remote military base in western Anbar Province last month, Mr. Trump said there was no plan to reduce the number of forces in Iraq.