Dramatic footage shows Kurdish, US and Iraqi troops freeing almost 70 hostages from an Islamic State (Isis) prison in northern Iraq on Thursday (22 October). It is believed that the prisoners were about to face an 'imminent mass execution' at the hands of the jihadist group, the Pentagon said.
The footage, released by the Kurdistan Regional Government, shows US, Kurdish and Iraqi soldiers ushering the cowering men through an IS-controlled prison.
The video was filmed from the helmet camera of one of the Kurdish soldiers, whose gun can be seen pointing at a barred window. The men being rescued were barefoot, wearing long robes, some with large stains. As voices shout at them in the darkness to move quickly, they hurry across the debris-littered floor, while heavy gunfire is heard in the background.
One US commando was killed and four Iraqi soldiers were wounded. This was the first American death in ground combat with IS militants.
Forces launched the pre-dawn raid on an abandoned school near Hawija, which was being used as a base by senior IS military commanders. Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said initial debriefs showed people had recently been killed at the compound, and the hostages would have been killed 'in a matter of hours.'
According to the Pentagon, five IS militants were captured and an undisclosed number of others were killed. It added that the raid had also provided them with a 'mass of intelligence information.'
The 69 detainees, who were rescued in Thursday's operation, included 20 members of the Iraqi Security Forces, local residents and several IS fighters who were accused of spying, US and Kurdish officials said.
Iraq's Defence Ministry said earlier on Friday it was not informed about the raid, which took place just north of the IS-controlled town of Hawija. "We just heard this from the media, we didn't know about it," ministry spokesman General Tahsin Ibrahim Sadiq told Reuters.
CNN reports that US officials made the decision quickly because time was 'running out' for the hostages. "We knew the hostages would soon be murdered," said Col Steve Warren, the spokesman for the US military operation against IS. "We knew this because we saw freshly dug graves," he told reporters Sunday in Baghdad.