US citizens freed in commando raid in Iraq

Baghdad, Oct 23 (IANS/AKI) American citizens were among 70 people freed when American and Kurdish commandos raided an Islamic State prison near the northern Iraqi town of Hawija, the Al-Arabiya TV channel reported.

Kurdish peshmerga fighters made up almost half the freed hostages, who included civilians and an Iraqi judge who was earlier caught by militants from the so-called Islamic State jihadist group, Kurdish sources said.

One US service member was killed in the operation and five Islamic State militants were captured and at least 10 were killed, according to US and Iraqi officials.

The American soldier’s death marks the first US combat fatality in Iraq since US President Barack Obama launched operations against the IS earlier this year.

General Lloyd J. Austin III, the head of US Central Command, called the raid a “complex and highly-successful operation” and offered his condolences to the family of the US soldier who was killed.

Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook said that US commandos and Kurdish peshmerga troops launched the operation to rescue hostages who “faced imminent mass execution”.

The hostages included 20 members of the Iraqi Security Forces, Cook said.

The American forces who took part in the raid were members of the US Army’s Elite Delta Force, officials said.

While American commando operations have taken place in Syria, none had previously been confirmed to have happened within Iraq.

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