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US-Kurdish forces free 70 captives facing IS mass execution

WASHINGTON: On Thursday, US and Kurdish forces stormed a prison to the self styled Islamic State (IS) in the Northern Iraq, while freeing some seventy captives who were facing imminent execution, according to the Pentagon.

Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook said that, “Five IS militants were captured and several others killed in the raid on a compound near Hawijah.”

Cook said in a statement that, “This operation was deliberately planned and launched after receiving information that the hostages faced imminent mass execution.”

He added that, “The Hawijah raid marked an apparent break with the normal modus operandi of US forces, which are in Iraq to support government forces but do not directly engage in combat in line with President Barack Obama’s no boots on the ground policy”.

He said while adding that “the mission was given the green light by Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, and that the White House was notified,” he said, “”This is a unique situation.”

Cook said while stressing that, “the United States are not in an active combat mission in Iraq,” and said that “We were asked for assistance” by the Kurdish government. “Several Chinook helicopters were involved in the raid and that several IS-run checkpoints in the area were targeted by air strikes,” Residents told the AFP.

Cook also said that, “US helicopters and special operations forces accompanied Kurdish peshmerga forces to the prison compound.” He said that, “The American who later died was wounded acting in support of Iraqi peshmerga forces after they came under fire from IS.”

He said, “Approximately 70 hostages were rescued including more than 20 members of the Iraqi security forces,” while adding that, “the operation had also produced important intelligence about IS.”

69 prisoners were rescued, six IS fighters detained and more than 20 killed,” according to the office of Kurdish intelligence Chief Masrour Barzani.

Whereas Cook said that, “the slain US commando was the first US combat death since 2011.”

The commander of all the US forces in the Middle East, General Lloyd Austin, described the rescue operation as “complex and highly successful.” He said that, “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.”

A coalition official in Iraq said that, “Those freed included prisoners who were about to be executed as spies, and residents of Hawijah.”

The official told the AFP that, “They’d executed for the previous day. We had seen mass graves had been dug on that compound and the information we now hear… is that they’d been told they would be executed after morning prayers this morning.”

An intelligence official in the Kurdish controlled city of Kirkuk told the AFP that, “high value detainees were believed to be among those captured.”

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