A U.S. service member was killed Thursday in a helicopter assault by U.S. Special Operations troops and Kurdish commandos that freed about 70 ISIS hostages in northern Iraq, the Pentagon said. The death of a U.S. soldier was the first combat fatality suffered by the U.S. in the campaign against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), also known as Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). In a statement, Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook said that the U.S. Special Ops troops supported Kurdish Peshmerga fighters who took the lead in the raid on a village east of the flashpoint town of Hawija, about 30 miles south of Kirkuk. One member of the Special Ops team was wounded in the raid and later died while receiving medical care. Four Peshmerga fighters also were wounded and an undetermined number of ISIS members guarding the hostages were killed, Cook said. "This operation was deliberately planned and launched after receiving information that the hostages faced imminent mass execution," Cook said. "It was authorized consistent with our counter-ISIL effort to train, advise, and assist Iraqi forces." U.S. helicopters carried the assault force to the site and the Special Ops troops were with the Peshmerga at the ISIS compound, according to the statement. "Approximately 70 hostages were rescued including more than 20 members of the Iraqi Security Forces. Five ISIL terrorists were detained by the Iraqis and a number of ISIL terrorists were killed as well. In addition, the U.S. recovered important intelligence about ISIL," Cook said. The Hawija area has been a frequent target of U.S. airstrikes in an attempt to break the hold of ISIS on the region. "They cut off roads and raided the place successfully," Najmaldin Karim, the governor of surrounding Kirkuk Province, told The New York Times. "They were able to take people with them." The raid came shortly after Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, the new chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was in Irbil, the Kurdish capital, to confer with Massoud Barzani, the president of the Kurdish Regional Government.
Note: This story was updated with confirmation of the fatality and additional information released by the Pentagon.
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