US forces rescue Iraqi hostages facing ‘imminent execution’

Kurdish troops and US special forces have rescued nearly 70 hostages facing “imminent mass execution”  in northern Iraq, from an Islamic State jail, according to US and Kurdish officials.

The operation also led to the first American combat death in Iraq since 2011. The raid started early in the morning on Thursday and targeted a school near the northern town of Hawija that was believed to have been used as a base by senior military commanders from the group.

Unconfirmed reports state that one of Isis’s most senior leaders, Nema Arbid Nayef al-Jabouri, was the main target of the raid. Jabouri, also known as Abu Fatima was not present when US, Kurdish and Iraqi troops entered the small village of Fedeekha east of the town, Iraqi officials said. Instead, commandos freed dozens of Arab Iraqis who were being held prisoner at the school, including members of the Iraqi security forces, local residents and Isis fighters held as suspected spies.

The US government said the operation had been planned and launched at the urging of Kurdish officials after they received reports that the hostages “faced imminent mass execution”.