The Department of Defense (DoD) has announced an American soldier was killed during a mission to rescue Kurdish hostages from ISIS near the Iraqi town of Hawija.
The New York Times notes this is the first death of an American soldier in Iraq since the troop withdrawal of 2011.
While DoD was not prepared to offer specific details about the mission, Iraqi officials cited by the Times said it “appeared to be a significant joint strike against the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, at a time when Iraqi and American officials are trying to mount a wider counteroffensive against the militants.”
The operation involved “American helicopters, Kurdish and American Special Operations forces, and airstrikes,” according to these officials. Kurdish and American special forces worked together on the ground in what the NYT characterizes as the most significant U.S. special operations raid since the strike that killed ISIS money man Abu Sayyaf and seized a valuable trove of documents from his residence, as well as freeing a Yazidi woman he was holding as a slave.
The mission in Hawija appears to have been successful. The New York Times reports that several senior ISIS militants were captured, while CBS News states that 70 Kurdish hostages were rescued.
CNN recalls that ISIS abducted dozens of Kurdish men near Hawija a little over a month ago, but it is unclear if these are the prisoners rescued in the raid. Hawija is about 30 miles south of Kirkuk and has a population of about 400,000, according to USA Today.
Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook said in a statement on Thursday that the rescue mission was “deliberately planned and launched after receiving information that the hostages faced imminent mass execution.”
Cook confirmed that American forces “provided helicopter lift and accompanied Iraqi Peshmerga forces to the compound.” He said the approximately 70 rescued hostages included more than 20 members of the Iraqi Security Forces.
The Pentagon statement confirmed earlier reports that five ISIS members were taken prisoner during the raid and have been detained by Iraqi forces. Additionally, the statement indicated that a number of ISIS terrorists were killed and American special operators seized important intelligence materials.
As for the casualty, Cook sadly confirmed that one U.S. service member was “wounded during the rescue mission while acting in support of Iraqi Peshmerga forces after they came under fire by ISIL,” adding that he “subsequently died after receiving medical care.” Four Peshmerga soldiers were also wounded.