One member of a U.S. special operations force was killed during an overnight mission to rescue hostages held by Islamic State militants in northern Iraq, the first American to die in ground combat with the militant group, U.S. officials said on Thursday.
Sixty-nine hostages were rescued in the action, which targeted an Islamic State prison around 7 kilometers north of the town of Hawija, according to the security council of the Kurdistan region, whose counterterrorism forces took part.
The hostages rescued in the raid were all Arabs, including local residents and Islamic State fighters held as suspected spies, a U.S. official said on Thursday.
The official told Reuters that around 20 of the hostages were members of Iraqi security forces.
“Some of the remainder were Daesh (Islamic State) … fighters that Daesh thought were spies,” the official said. “The rest of them were citizens of the local town”.
More than 20 Islamic State militants were killed and six detained, the security council said.
Dozens of U.S. troops were involved in the mission, a U.S. defense official said
“It was a deliberately planned operation, but it was also done with the knowledge that imminent action was needed to save the lives of these people,” the U.S. defense official said.
The U.S. serviceman was shot during the mission and taken to the Kurdistan regional capital Erbil, where he died, the U.S. defense official said.
He was the first American serviceman killed in ground combat in Iraq since the United States withdrew its forces in 2011.