Authorities in the autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq have released a video shot from the helmet camera of a commando who participated in a joint operation with US troops to rescue 69 hostages being held by the ISIS militant group.
The raid took place on Thursday in the town of Hawija in Iraq’s Kirkuk oil-rich province. One US soldier was killed during the operation, marking the first American combat death against ISIS.
All 69 hostages were of Arab descent, including 20 belonging to the Iraqi security forces, were rescued unharmed. According to KRG Chief-of-Staff Dr Fuad Hussein, the Kurdish forces were not aware of the identity of the hostages before the raid.
“We hoped there would be some Kurdish Peshmerga hostages in there because those terrorists [ISIS] had caught some Peshmerga hostages and we thought some of those people were there,” Dr Hussein told TRT World on Friday.
“We knew there were hostages there, but we did not know their identities,” he added. “Anyhow, we saved the lives of 69 innocent people,” he added.
A day after the raid, US Defense Secretary Ash Carter said that the US troops had not initially planned to enter the compound, but were only there to advise the Kurdish fighters.
The hostages were all on the verge of being executed and dumped in mass graves, US and Kurdish officials later said, after having been accused of spying and treason by ISIS militants.
ISIS has seized swathes of land in Iraq’s predominantly Sunni Muslim western provinces since capturing Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, in the summer of 2014. The militant group later broke through the Sykes-Picot border dividing Iraq and Syria.
However, the militants have faced resistance in the Iraqi city of Tikrit from government forces backed by Shiite militias and in Kirkuk by Peshmerga forces. Nonetheless, the group managed to add the western Iraqi city of Ramadi to its realm in May.
Having set up their de facto capital in the central Syrian city of Raqqa, ISIS has been battling with Kurdish YPG forces in the country’s north as well as Syrian opposition groups as they attempt push westwards towards the city of Aleppo.
The group has been targeted by US-led coalition air strikes in Syria and Iraq since September 2014, and more recently by Russian air strikes in Syria as of Sept. 30 this year.