US operation frees Kurdish hostages in Iraq, one American killed: CNN

WASHINGTON (REUTERS/AFP) - United States Special Forces rescued about 70 Kurdish hostages in northern Iraq and one American was killed in the operation, CNN reported on Thursday (Oct 22), citing an unidentified US official.

“It was an Iraqi operation” with the US military in an “advise and assist” role, the official said, adding that the aim was to “free hostages.”

CNN reported that the operation, which took place in Hawija in northern Iraq’s Kirkuk province, freed 70 hostages. Other US media outlets also reported on an operation in Hawija without giving any numbers on US military casualties. 

This would be the first US combat fatality on the ground in the fight against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), CNN said.

Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook told a briefing that Defense Secretary Ash Carter approved US involvement in the operation based on the authorities he had in the current conflict and notified White House national security officials before it took place. 

He said US special operations forces provided helicopters for the mission and sent some troops to accompany the Kurdish Peshmerga fighters who led the raid. In addition to the US trooper killed in the fight, several Peshmerga fighters were wounded, he said.

The rescue mission in Iraq that left one US special forces trooper dead was a“unique circumstance,” not a change in US tactics in the war, the Pentagon said.

According to The New York Times, the operation saw the mobilisation of US helicopters, as well as Kurdish and US Special Operations forces. 

The United States has deployed 3,500 troops in Iraq in the context of an operation targeting the Islamic State group.  These troops are meant to train, advise and assist Iraqi forces.