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U.S. Forces Aid Hostage Rescue Mission in Iraq

By Terri Moon Cronk DoD News, Defense Media Activity

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WASHINGTON, October 22, 2015 — U.S. Special Forces supported an Iraqi peshmerga operation earlier today to rescue about 70 hostages from an Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant prison near Hawijah, Iraq, Defense Department Press Secretary Peter Cook told reporters at the Pentagon this afternoon.

American Special Forces personnel carried out the planned operation at the request of the Kurdistan regional government after learning through intelligence sources that the hostages faced imminent mass execution, Cook said.

The Special Forces mission was consistent with Operation Inherent Resolve’s counter-ISIL efforts to train, advise, and assist Iraqi forces, he emphasized.

One U.S. service member and four peshmerga soldiers were wounded when ISIL extremists fired on U.S. and Iraqi forces during the rescue, he said, adding the U.S. service member was medically treated but later died.

The recovered hostages were placed with the Kurdistan Regional government, Cook said, adding that no hostages died during the rescue to his knowledge.

“The U.S. provided helicopter lift and accompanied Iraqi peshmerga forces to the compound,” where ISIL held the hostages, Cook said. While it appears more than 20 hostages were Iraqi security forces’ members and the remaining hostages were Iraqi civilians, that review remains under way.

“Five ISIL terrorists were detained by the Iraqis and a number of ISIL terrorists were killed,” he said. “In addition, the U.S. recovered important intelligence about ISIL.”

Cook offered the department’s sincere condolences to the family of the U.S. service member who died in the operation. 

“The U.S. and our coalition will continue to work with our Iraqi partners to degrade and defeat ISIL and return Iraq to the full control of its people,” he added.

The press secretary said the commander of U.S. Central Command, Army Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, offered his condolences in a statement earlier today.

“We commend and congratulate the brave individuals who participated in this successful operation that saved many lives, and we deeply mourn the loss of one of our own who died while supporting his Iraqi comrades engaged in a tough fight,” Austin’s statement read. “Our gratitude and heart-felt condolences go out to this young man's family, his teammates and friends."

(Follow Terri Moon Cronk on Twitter: @MoonCronkDoD)