During an American commando raid on an ISIS hideout a U.S. service member was killed after freeing nearly 70 hostages who were possibly facing imminent execution by ISIS militants in northern Iraq. Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook insisted that U.S. participation in the firefight did not indicate a shift in U.S. policy, calling the circumstances leading to the raid unique. “U.S. forces are not in an active combat mission in Iraq,” he said. This soldier’s death is the first American combat death in Iraq in four years.
White House Deputy Press Secretary, Eric Schultz reported that Kurdish commandos and American special operation forces conducted the raid, which came at the request of the Kurdish regional government. The rescued hostages included 20 members of the Iraqi security forces and special forces was also able to capture five ISIS fighters. U.S. forces also recovered valuable intelligence from the militants’ camp near the northern Iraqi town of Hawija, he said.
The plan called for 30 American special operations soldiers to advise a number of Kurdish commandos on the raid. The hostages were held in a walled compound. Helicopters flew in from the south and west of the complex, and troops encountered heavy gunfire. The Kurds were pinned down before American troops took the lead and killed 15 militants, the official said. U.S. troops wounded several more fighters as they freed the hostages. Army Col. Steve Warren, military spokesman in Baghdad held a press conference following the operation.
It is always a tragedy when we lose one of our own. In the end, we saved 70 people from execution that was planned in a few hours.”
Central Command Commander Army Gen. Lloyd Austin shared his condolences for the fallen soldier’s family.
We commend and congratulate the brave individuals who participated in this successful operation that saved many lives, and we deeply mourn the loss of one of our own who died while supporting his Iraqi comrades engaged in a tough fight. Our gratitude and heartfelt condolences go out to this young man’s family, his teammates and friends.”
Air Force F-15 warplanes leveled the compound with airstrikes. The operation came more than a month after Kurdish security forces said the Islamist militant group ISIS kidnapped dozens of men near Hawija. It wasn’t immediately clear whether the overnight rescue was related to this early September kidnapping. The Kurds are an ethnic group with an autonomous region in northern Iraq. The Kurdish Peshmerga, the military force that protects this region, has been fighting ISIS, which captured parts of Iraq and Syria in an attempt to create what it calls its Islamic caliphate.