US special forces soldier is killed in Isis hostage rescue mission in Iraq

The rescue operations was a joint operation with Kurdish peshmerga forces

Andrew Buncombe
New York
Thursday 22 October 2015 14:07 BST
The US has been engaged in operations against Iraq
The US has been engaged in operations against Iraq

A US special forces soldier has been killed in rescue operation of dozens of Kurdish hostages in northern Iraq, in what is thought to be the first American combat death on the ground in the fight against Isis. The Pentagon said the hostages were freed - in a joint operation involving Kurdish peshmerga forces - from an ISIS prison in northern Iraq near Hawija and that their captors were threatening "imminent mass executiuon".

"People were chained to walls," one military source told Fox News. "A mass atrocity was averted."

The Pentagon said most hostages were Iraqi security forces, many were from the Iraqi Army, and some were police. Some of those rescued were part of the "Sunni Awakening," the fight against Al-Qaeda that saw Sunnis alongside US forces almost a decade ago. Five Isis fighters were killed and a number were detained.

"This operation was deliberately planned and launched after receiving information that the hostages faced imminent mass execution. It was authorised consistent with our counter-ISIL effort to train, advise, and assist Iraqi forces," Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said in a statement.

"The US provided helicopter lift and accompanied Iraqi Peshmerga forces to the compound. Approximately 70 hostages were rescued including more than 20 members of the Iraqi Security Forces. Five ISIL terrorists were detained by the Iraqis and a number of ISIL terrorists were killed as well. In addition, the U.S. recovered important intelligence about ISIL."

CNN was the first to report that US soldiers were involved in the operation overnight. Up to 70 hostages were freed in the operation, the network said. The operation took place in Hawija in northern Iraq's Kirkuk province.

The report said that US forces had been working closely with Kurdish troops in the effort to roll-back Isis in Iraq and Syria.

Since the summer of 2014, the US has been conducting airstrikes against Iris targets in Iraq. Then in September 2014, it was announced the strikes would be extended to Isis fighters in neighbouring Syria.

The US has also conducted a series of special forces operations in both countries. It has also been arming and supporting so-called moderate Syrian rebels to fight both Isis and the forces of President Basher al-Assad.

A Reuters source in the Hawija area said the special forces raided a house where Islamic State commanders were gathering, triggering gun battles and blasts that lasted several hours.

Sheikh Jaafar Mustafa, a senior commander of the Kurdish peshmerga forces, confirmed an operation had taken place but said he had no further information about it. In May, American special operations forces killed senior Islamic State leader Abu Sayyaf from Tunisia in a raid in Syria.

The latest operation came more than a month after Kurdish security forces said Isis kidnapped dozens of men near Hawija. It was not immediately clear whether the overnight rescue was related to this early September kidnapping.

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