Canadian special forces exchanged gunfire with Islamic State (ISIS) fighters in Iraq in recent days, in the first confirmed ground battle between Western troops and ISIS, a senior officer was quoted by AFP as having said Monday.
The Canadians came under mortar and machine gun fire while training Iraqi troops near front lines and shot back in what Canadian special forces commander Brigadier General Michael Rouleau described as self-defense, killing the ISIS fighters.
Rouleau said the melee had taken place in the previous seven days and was "the first time we've taken fire and returned fire" in Iraq, where the extremists have overrun large areas.
"My troops had completed a planning session with senior Iraqi leaders several kilometers behind the front lines," Rouleau told a regular media briefing on the conflict, according to AFP.
"When they moved forward to confirm the planning at the front lines in order to visualize what they had discussed over a map, they came under immediate and effective mortar and machine gun fire," he added.
The general said the Canadians used sniper fire to "neutralize both threats" and there were no Canadian injuries.
The United States has previously reported having launched an unsuccessful hostage-rescue operation against the ISIS group in neighboring Syria, but Western forces have not officially engaged in ground combat.
An international coalition, led by the United States, has been carrying out air raids on IS extremists in Iraq and Syria since last year. Canada is only involved in Iraq operations.
Canada sent some 600 air crew and other military personnel — as well as six fighter jets and other military aircraft — to the region in November to participate in the air strikes against the Islamic State.
The Canadian deployment is due to end in April, unless parliament votes to extend the mission.