The first death of a U.S. soldier has been reported in a Special Operations raid that aimed to rescue 70 Iraqi’s being held hostage by ISIS in Iraq.
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The overnight raid was launched on a militant-run prison near the northern ISIS stronghold of Hawija, ‘after receiving information that the hostages faced imminent mass execution’, said the Pentagon.
Six ISIS fighters were arrested and more than 20 were reportedly killed in the operation.
The Delta Force soldier is the first American killed in ground combat with ISIS, and the first killed in action in Iraq since U.S. troops withdrew from the country in December 2011.
The rescued hostages included more than 20 members of Iraq’s security forces, as well as military and police, according to Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook.
‘People were chained to walls,’ one high-ranking military source told Fox News. ‘A mass atrocity was averted.’
The soldier who died ‘was wounded during the rescue mission acting in support of Iraqi Peshmerga forces after they came under fire’ by ISIS, continued the Pentagon.
‘He subsequently died after receiving medical care.’
Four Peshmerga soldiers – the Kurdish region’s organised militia – were also wounded.
The target of the raid was a prison run by ISIS militants in the mostly Kurdish province of Kirkuk, according to local reports.
American airstrikes were used to destroy roads leading to the site, to prevent militants making an escape.
The raid has been described as a significant joint strike against ISIS, as Iraqi and U.S. officials attempt to mount a wider counteroffensive against the jihadi efforts.
Hawija is a key focus of this effort in recent weeks, as an important ISIS stronghold.
President Barack Obama requested permission from Congress in February requesting authorisation for ‘limited’ ground combat operations against ISIS.
The raid reportedly involved American helicopters, Kurdish and American Special Operations forces, and airstrikes.