American Soldier Killed in Daring Mission to Free ISIS Hostages
An American soldier has died in a successful and daring mission to rescue hostages who were about to be executed by ISIS forces in Iraq.
It was a race against time; some of the hostages were reportedly scheduled to die within hours.
"Early (Thursday) in Iraq at the request of the Kurdistan regional government, U.S. special operation forces supported an Iraqi-Peshmerga operation to rescue hostages at an ISIL prison near Hawija, Iraq," Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook announced.
Under cover of darkness, five American helicopters carried Kurdish Special Forces and 30 U.S. advisors to an ISIS prison camp in Hawijah in northern Iraq.
U.S. airstrikes cleared nearby roads and buildings to prevent ISIS reinforcements as the operation began.
When rescuers moved in, they expected to find just 20 hostages, but were stunned to come across 70. They also recovered what the Pentagon called a "trove" of valuable intelligence about the terrorist organization.
An intense firefight broke out during the rescue, and the American advisors were forced to get involved.
As many as 20 ISIS terrorists were killed, but an American advisor was also wounded and later died. It was the first U.S. combat death since the fight against ISIS began last year.
The mission raised the question of whether it violated President Barack Obama's vow not to put boots on the ground in Iraq.
"In terms of justifying this action, the Secretary (Ash Carter) assessed this situation on the ground, saw that U.S. forces could make a difference here, could perhaps make this operation more successful," Cook said. "And at the end of the day, there are 70 people whose lives were saved as a result of this."