ROME (AP) — A roadside blast wounded five Italian military members Sunday in northern Iraq as they returned from a mission aimed at helping Iraqi troops combat the Islamic State group, Italian military officials said.
The Italian Defense Ministry said three of the wounded were in “grave condition” after the explosion.
Rear Admiral Fabio Agostini said the five — three members of the navy and two of the army — are part of a special forces team that was traveling back after a mission aimed at finding IS refuges.
Agostini told Italian Rai state TV that Iraqi armed forces members were also injured in the blast but didn’t say how many.
An Iraqi security official said the bomb exploded next to their vehicle as they were traveling just outside Kirkuk, wounding six Italian soldiers.
The discrepancy in the number of wounded wasn’t immediately explained.
Italy’s wounded were evacuated by U.S. military helicopters to hospital in Baghdad.
One Italian soldier lost a leg to amputation due to injuries from the bomb and another suffered serious internal injuries, Italian Gen. Nicola Lanza de Cristoforis told state TV.
Iraq declared victory against IS militants two years ago, but the group continues to stage insurgent-type attacks across the country, particularly in northern Iraq.
Italy currently has more than 800 regular soldiers and some 80 special forces in Iraq.
Qassim Abdul-Zahra in Baghdad contributed.