Combating ISIS: 70 prisoners rescued from 'impending mass execution'

A US soldier was killed during the raid, the first American serviceman to die in Iraq since the United States ended combat operations in 2011.

Militant website/AP/FIle
This undated file image posted on a militant website last year shows fighters from the Islamic State marching through Raqqa, Syria.

US and Iraqi forces raided a compound held by the Islamic State militant group, freeing around 70 prisoners, US officials announced on Thursday. 

Dozens of US and Iraqi peshmerga forces descended on the compound after receiving intelligence suggesting that prisoners faced “imminent mass execution,” according to the Pentagon. In addition to rescuing dozen of prisoners, the raiding forces captured or killed several militants and obtained vital information about the Islamic State.

One American soldier was killed during the raid, the first US serviceman to die in Iraq since the United States ceased combat operations in 2011. The Pentagon has labeled the operation a training mission, saying the US special operation forces participated in a support capacity at the request of the Kurdish Regional Government, according to a written statement from Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook.

The mission was "consistent with our counter-ISIL effort to train, advise and assist Iraqi forces," since the US began its mission to counter the Islamic State, Mr. Cook said.

The circumstances surrounding the death of the American soldier are currently unknown. He was wounded during the mission and taken back to Erbil, where he died. Four peshmerga soldiers were wounded during the mission.

A US defense official, who requested anonymity, told the Associated Press that the US soldiers’ roles in the rescue were mainly relegated to transportation, intelligence, air support, and advisory roles during the raid. Another anonymous source told a Reuters source that the US special operations soldiers also raided a house where commanders of the Islamic State were gathering.

Hawija, a town close to where the mission was conducted, is a hotbed of Islamic State activity. A decision to conduct a raid so close to the stronghold marks a bold move for Iraqi forces.

"This operation was deliberately planned and launched after receiving information that the hostages faced imminent mass execution," Cook said to the AP.

This report includes material from the Associated Press and Reuters.

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