US-Iraqi forces rescue dozens of hostages held by Islamic State (IS)
US-Iraqi forces have rescued dozens of hostages held by Islamic State (IS) in Iraq after learning of their “imminent execution”, the Pentagon has said.
But a US soldier wounded in the raid died of his injuries – the first killed in action since US operations against IS began last year.
The early morning operation on Thursday took place near the town of Hawija in northern Iraq.
Five IS militants were captured and a number killed, the Pentagon said.
The raid targeted an IS-held prison near Hawija, in the predominantly Kurdish province of Kirkuk.
The US military were involved at the invitation of the Kurdistan regional government, the Pentagon said.
American helicopters flew troops to the site, with Kurdish special forces taking the lead but with US ones on the ground. “This operation was deliberately planned and launched after receiving information that the hostages faced imminent mass execution,” Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said in a statement.
“It was authorized consistent with our counter-ISIL effort to train, advise, and assist Iraqi forces,” he added, using an alternative acronym for IS.
The US soldier killed was said to have come under fire from IS militants during the operation.
Gen Lloyd Austin, who heads the US military’s Central Command, said “we deeply mourn the loss of one of our own who died while supporting his Iraqi comrades engaged in a tough fight”.
A US-led coalition has been carrying out daily air strikes on IS positions in Iraq and Syria for more than a year.
The raid on the prison in northern Iraqi comes amid a fresh push by Iraqi and Kurdish forces to captured territory seized by IS.