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Dozens of hostages freed in US-Kurdish operation in Iraq

A US Special Forces soldier has been killed during a hostage rescue operation in northern Iraq. The joint operation with Iraqi Kurdish forces against an "Islamic State" prison freed 69 hostages.

The joint US and Iraqi Kurdish operation on a prison operated by the self-styled "Islamic State" (IS) in Hawija, located about 70 kilometers west of Kirkuk, was carried out "after receiving information that the hostages faced imminent mass execution," Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook said in a statement.

Sixty-nine hostages were freed in the operation, including more than 20 members of Iraq's security forces.

US Special Forces joined the operation and provided helicopter lift, intelligence and airstrike support for Iraqi Kurdish forces.

One US soldier was wounded and later died in support of Iraqi Kurdish forces after they came under fire from Islamic State fighters, the Pentagon said.

The solider is the first US service member known to have died in ground combat in Iraq since the US withdrew troops in 2011, before redeploying advisors and Special Operations forces to support and train Iraqi and Kurdish forces as they fight the Islamic State.

The raid is the first publically recognized US Special Operation action in Iraq since the US-led coalition against the Islamic State began airstrikes in September 2014. The Pentagon has admitted to Special Operations in Syria, including one in May that killed a top Islamic State financier and captured significant intelligence.

Four Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga fighters were also wounded in the operation, which the Kurdistan Regional Government said killed more than 20 Islamic State fighters, capturing a further six.

The Pentagon said they "recovered important intelligence" in the operation.

Islamic State fighters have taken hundreds of hostages - including Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga, Iraqi security forces and Yazidis - since taking control of parts of northern Iraq last year.

Peshmerga hostages have regularly been executed by the terrorist group, but the Kurdistan Regional Government said an initial assessment of the operation indicated no Kurds were among the hostages.

cw/msh (dpa, Reuters)

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