A U.S. soldier died in a raid against ISIS during a covert operation carried out on Wednesday evening. The Pentagon confirmed details of the raid in a press conference today, stating that while the raid freed 70 prisoners from an ISIS prison and killed 10 ISIS militants, one U.S. soldier was fatally wounded in the ensuing gunfight.
The prison, an ISIS facility in the town of Hawija in Northern Iraq, was once the home of a local judge who had long since been driven out by the militant state. The prisoners freed in the raid were a mix of local police, paramilitary fighters, and Kurdish special forces soldiers. It was a grim scene, a Defense source tells Fox News, and people were chained to the walls and paraded in cages to demoralize and discourage people from standing up against the ISIS militants. The raid was meticulously planned, the Pentagon says, and executed at the last possible moment when it became clear that the hostages were going to be killed.
An Iraqi from the Hawija area, who asked not to be named for fear of retaliation by the Islamic State, told the New York Times that militants had recently executed 11 young men who were known to be relatives, or children, of police officers and other Iraqi forces. In a grisly display, their bodies were hung from a nearby bridge. The rescued prisoners confirmed that they were to face a similar fate on Thursday morning, the trench to bury their bodies had already been dug.
“A mass atrocity was averted,” a senior U.S. defense source tells Fox News.
The raid was led by the U.S. Army’s Delta Force, as a joint operation with Peshmarga special forces soldiers in the largely autonomous and Kurd-controlled northern region of Iraq. The raid saw 70 prisoners freed and 10 ISIS soldiers killed, with another five detained. U.S. soldiers had planned on rescuing 20 hostages, but when they entered the prison, they found many more. Luckily, U.S. airstrikes had severely degraded the ISIS forces in the area, and the prison was not heavily guarded – reinforcements were unable to assist due to the roads being destroyed by U.S. airstrikes.
“They cut off roads and raided the place successfully,” an Iraqi official confirmed, but the Iraqi government has expressed frustration that they were not involved or even consulted regarding the raid.
The Iraqi Defense Ministry in Baghdad told the Washington Post that they learned of the raid from press reports just today. Defense Ministry officials were reportedly upset by their exclusion.
The U.S. soldier who was fatally wounded in the raid was evacuated and later died of his injuries. The Pentagon confirms that his family has been notified, but his identity has not yet been released. He is the first U.S. soldier to die in combat in Iraq since 2011, but the operation has highlighted the continued risks that U.S. soldiers face in Iraq, even as the Obama administration has taken great care to keep American soldiers far from combat.
“We won’t get dragged into another ground war in the Middle East,” President Obama said in his State of the Union Address earlier this year.
Since then, his administration has been adamant that they will fight ISIS but prevent the bloodshed of the last Iraq war, which claimed the lives of more than 4,000 U.S. soldiers.
The strategy seems to be working, with U.S. soldiers acting as military advisors throughout Iraq, rather than taking the lead on ground operations. Even this raid was conducted as a joint effort with the Kurdish special forces soldiers, the Peshmarga.
Still, critics of the Obama Administration’s strategy in Iraq will ask how many U.S. soldiers will die in the fight against ISIS?
[Photos by Getty Images]