Charles H. Keating IV, a Navy SEAL and the grandson of a man with the same name at the central of a 1980s banking scandal, was killed Tuesday in Iraq, his family confirmed.
According to a local Colorado affiliate, Keating’s fiancée was planning to buy her wedding gown this week. Keating was 31 years old.
A family member reached by The Daily Beast declined to speak about Keating, a Phoenix native who lived in Colorado with his fiancée. He was the third service member killed in Iraq since the U.S. began its war against ISIS 20 months ago.
Keating was the grandson of Charles Keating, the infamous financier involved in the savings and loan scandal of the 1980s. According to the Arizona Republic, the younger Keating was known as C-4 and a 2004 graduate of Arizona’s Arcadia High School, where he was a track star.
The self-proclaimed Islamic State broke through a line of Kurdish forces in Iraq on Tuesday and killed Keating, who was there to advise the Kurds, a defense official told The Daily Beast.
U.S. military advisers had arrived on Monday morning to assist the Kurdish forces, known as peshmerga, in the northern city of Mosul, checking on “their morale and defenses,” the official said.
The U.S. forces were at least three miles from the front lines when the ISIS fighters attacked, the official said.
ISIS fighters “appeared to penetrate the forward line” and began attacking the peshmerga. Keating was shot at 9:30 a.m. local time; he died an hour later in a U.S. medical facility in nearby Erbil, the official said.
No other U.S. service members were wounded or killed. It is unclear if the peshmerga suffered any casualties. This is not the first time ISIS has successfully broke the Kurdish line. Fighters successfully attacked the peshmerga as far back as late last year, the official said.
The U.S. deployed F-15s and drones to fight back the ISIS offensive, launching 23 strikes, the Pentagon said.
A Navy official who spoke anonymously because he was not authorized to discuss the casualty publicly told The Daily Beast earlier Tuesday that the service member killed was a SEAL from a West Coast unit. (The Navy is forbidden by law from releasing the name of the dead for 24 hours, pending notification of next of kin.) The SEAL’s team in Iraq was part of the mission to advise, assist, and train local forces. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter announced the service member’s death while in Stuttgart, Germany, for a change of command ceremony at U.S. European Command headquarters.
Keating is the third service member killed in Iraq since the U.S. campaign against ISIS began and the second to die while trying to build up the local forces. Marine Staff Sgt. Louis Cardin died in March helping the Iraqi forces move toward Mosul from the south.
Keating’s name will likely not be officially released until early Wednesday.
Carter was quick to acknowledge the service member died in combat but he has hesitated to do so in the past when U.S. troops have been killed. The Obama administration has continued to claim that the U.S. is not back at war in Iraq.
But with more than 5,000 troops on the ground, the U.S is undeniably part of the ground war against ISIS, which is largely being led by Kurdish forces. The U.S. advisers are there to build up local Iraqi forces that could eventually take back Mosul from the Islamic State, which has controlled Iraq’s second-largest city since June 2014. But such an operation is months away, as not all the troops that would be involved have been trained. Moreover, the Iraqis have have struggled to move against ISIS without heavy U.S. backing from airstrikes.
Together, U.S. airstrikes and Iraqi troops have reclaimed the cities of Hit, Tikrit, and Ramadi from ISIS in recent months.
But even with territorial gains, Iraq is struggling politically. Over the weekend, Iraqis stormed their parliament seeking a vote for Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al Abadi’s push to reshuffle his cabinet. Such schisms have raised fears that the coalition could successfully win back Iraqi territory from ISIS only to have no able political partner in place to keep that territory from falling back into jihadist hands.
— with additional reporting by Kim Dozier