Simi Valley Marine among 2 killed during mission to eliminate ISIS stronghold in Iraq

Gunnery Sgt. Diego D. Pongo

A Simi Valley man was one of two Marines who died during a mission to eliminate an ISIS stronghold in north-central Iraq. 

Gunnery Sgt. Diego D. Pongo, 34, of Simi Valley, and Capt. Moises A. Navas, 34, of Germantown, Maryland, died Sunday while on a mission with Iraqi counterterrorism forces in the Makhmur Mountains, south of Erbil, the New York Times reported.


Capt. Moises A. Navas

The two men were killed during a brutal gun battle while clearing a well-defended cave complex in mountains near the town of Makhmur, roughly 40 miles southwest of Erbil.

RELATED: 2 US service members killed in Iraq during mission against ISIS

Additional forces were deployed to recover the deceased Marines. The recovery effort took roughly six hours.

The two fatalities are the first reported deaths in 2020 of U.S. citizens battling the terrorist group. The last American to be killed in action in Iraq was a U.S. Marine in August 2019. There have now been 19 American service members killed fighting ISIS since August 2014, when U.S. military involvement began, according to the Defense Causality Analysis System (DMDC).