A U.S. service member was killed Thursday morning in northern Iraq during a special operations raid involving American and Iraqi commandos that freed 70 hostages, two U.S. officials said.
It is the first combat-related death of a U.S. military member in Iraq since American forces withdrew from the country in 2011.
The officials, who were not authorized to speak publicly on the matter, said the Kurdish hostages were being held by Islamic State terrorists in a prison in the village of Hawija, about 190 miles north of Baghdad.
The region is populated by the Kurds, an ethnic group scattered across a number of Middle Eastern nations, including Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran, but lacking a state of their own.
Iraqi Kurdish fighters known as peshmerga, who have been among the fiercest fighters in the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State, went along with U.S. forces in the raid for the first time.
What may be most significant about Thursday’s operation is that the raid featured U.S. ground troops in Iraq’s northern Kirkuk province, where Islamic State has mounted assaults since it overran large portions of northern and western Iraq in 2014.
There have been other ground raids inside Syria, but this operation marks the U.S. military’s first confirmed operation inside Iraq.
The U.S. is currently helping the Iraqi government take back Ramadi, the capital of Iraq’s western Anbar province, and the northern town of Bayji, which has a lucrative oil field.