U.S. special forces working with Kurdish forces pulled off a daring raid in Northern Iraq on Thursday to free as many as 70 Kurdish hostages, but one U.S. member of the team was killed in the firefight. A number of other members of the team were apparently injured.
Defense department officials who spoke privately to the media said the U.S-led rescue effort was carried out last night close to Hawija, an Islamic State base just west of the Kurdish city of Kirkuk.
Exactly how the U.S. military member was killed was not known, but officials confirmed the soldier was killed in a firefight during the rescue. This will be the first death of an American military member in combat with the Islamic State.
More U.S. raid and Iraq hostage rescue
A knowledgeable source from the Hawija area noted that the operation used helicopters and targeted a prison where Islamic State had been holding dozens of hostages. Major media sources are reporting that Kurdish military forces led the mission, while U.S. Special Forces and air force provided support.
NBC News, citing unidentified sources, said the operation had been requested by the Iraqi government and nearly all of those rescued were Kurdish peshmerga fighters. It said the U.S. forces suffered casualties, but the number of injuries had not been reported to date.
Another source in the Hawija area said the raiders hit a house where Islamic State commanders had come together for a meeting, leading to extensive battles including gunfire and explosions that lasted multiple hours.
Various Iraqi sources claimed that the raid on Thursday also resulted in the capture of several senior ISIS militants.
According to Sheikh Jaafar Mustafa, a senior commander of the Kurdish peshmerga forces, a rescue operation in Iraq had happened, but he could provide no further information.
A few months ago, U.S. special ops killed senior Islamic State leader Abu Sayyaf in a raid in Syria. Sayyaf was killed, but his wife was captured and a great deal of useful intelligence was seized.
Of note, Hawija is a stronghold of Islamic State militants and had been known as an area where militants feel relatively safe setting up meetings.
Relatives receiving reports of rescues of Kurds
A relative of one of the Kurdish hostages told Meddia sources on Thursday he was informed of the rescue of his nephew in a raid against Islamic State.
Irfan Sadradeen, the uncle of Kurdish peshmerga fighter Meriwan Mawlud, allowed that he had spoken to a peshmerga official who told him about the raid near Hawija. Irfan noted he was told that a team of paratroopers landed at a chicken farm near the main sharia judge of Hawija, and they launched their rescue from that location.
“We are waiting for more information. A peshmerga official called us today confirming the news of the raid,” Irfan said, continuing to note that he was told at least 15 IS fighters had been killed in the raid. “None of them arrived to this area yet but we are waiting for them,” he said.