In a raid on an ISIL prison near the town of Hawija, Iraq, Peshmerga fighters, aided by U.S. special forces at the request of the Kurdistan regional government, rescued approximately 70 hostages. More than 20 of the captives were reportedly Iraqi security force members. The operation was planned after receiving information that the hostages faced imminent mass execution.
Four Peshmerga fighters were wounded in the rescue mission. A U.S service member acting in support of Peshmerga fighters who came under heavy fire by ISIL was wounded and later died. He is the first U.S. soldier to be killed in Iraq since 2011.
At a press briefing, Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter spoke of U.S. serviceman Master Sergeant Joshua Wheeler:
“The sacrifice and decisive action of this courageous American in support of his comrades reminds us of the dangers that the coalition forces confront in Iraq, but also of the important assistance they provide local forces as they lead the fight against a barbaric enemy.”
Dozens of ISIL fighters were killed in the raid on the prison camp near Hawija, and five ISIL terrorists were detained by Peshmerga forces. In addition, important intelligence about ISIL was recovered.
Secretary of Defense Carter authorized the rescue mission as part of Operation Inherent Resolve, the campaign to defeat ISIL through support to Iraq security forces, including the Kurdish Peshmerga.
”Obviously saving the lives that were about to be brutally sacrificed is the main thing, and supporting our Peshmerga partners, who have been wonderful fighters. ..But then it turns out we [got] information as well.”
Defense Secretary Carter said the U.S. Defense Department “remains laser-focused on the execution of our counter-ISIL strategy.” In the case of the Hawija prison raid, he said the support of U.S. forces helped our partners prevent a mass killing and enabled them deliver to ISIL “a clear defeat.”