Upon receiving intelligence of an impending mass execution, Kurdish Peshmerga fighters were airlifted at night into the target area by American special operations aviation and backed up by American special forces, including Delta Force operators of the U.S. Army. Precision U.S. air power, coordinating with the heliborne raid, destroyed bridges and roads to prevent ISIS reinforcements from arriving. Upon arrival at the landing zone, the Kurds stormed the ISIS prison facility and encountered heavy resistance.
The New York Times reported the raiders did not find the Kurds they expected but were able to release approximately 70 prisoners, including Iraqi troops and civilians. They also captured ISIS fighters and retrieved valuable intelligence. The prisoners had been told they would be executed at dawn and trenches had already been dug.
As the Kurds approached the makeshift prison, they began to be pinned down by enemy fire. American forces then began to maneuver to support and help the Kurds complete the mission. An American soldier — identified as 39-year-old Army Master Sgt. Joshua L. Wheeler of Roland, Oklahoma — valiantly pushed forward and was killed.
The raid was approved by Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, and the White House was notified. American officials have warned not to expect this type of operation to be routine and expressed that this was a one-off request by a valued ally.
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