A video first posted Saturday by Rudaw, a Kurdish news site, purportedly shows footage of the joint U.S.-Kurdish raid that freed about 70 hostages from an Islamic State prison in northern Iraq early Thursday morning.
The raid, led by Kurdish Peshmerga special forces and supported by elite U.S. Delta Force soldiers, resulted in the death of Army Master Sgt. Joshua Wheeler, who was shot while moving to help pinned-down Kurdish forces. Wheeler was the first American killed in combat in Iraq since the last war there ended in 2011.
The video, filmed by a camera on what appears to be a Kurdish soldier’s helmet, appears to show Delta operators and Kurdish forces operating side by side, wearing similar uniforms and equipment. The entirety of the footage appears to be shot from inside the compound and in one scene an Islamic State flag is pictured clearly on the wall.
Evident from the four-minute clip is the the professionalism of the joint force as they move methodically through the compound, searching hostages and moving them, most likely, to the waiting helicopters for extraction. The searches, while seeming redundant, are more than likely to ensure that the enemy hasn’t infiltrated the prisoner population with a suicide vest or other weapon. Also noticeable is the lack of suppressors on a lot of the weapons. Usually a staple of night raids, the lack of ‘silencers’ on the weapons points to what type of fight the Kurds and Americans might have expected on the ground — one that wouldn’t call for discretion.
The only other significant portion of the video shows the commandos moving a number of hostages to safety across what appears to be a “danger area,” usually defined as an exposed piece of terrain that acts as a focal point for enemy fire. The footage shows Kurdish and U.S. forces laying down covering fire while the prisoners move to safety — some are visibly bloodied. As the soldiers and prisoners move, parts of the structure are clearly burning outside, most likely from the concentrated airstrikes that were conducted at the beginning of the raid. According to U.S. officials, after the commandos and hostages departed from the area, an additional set of airstrikes destroyed the compound.
According to Rudaw and U.S. officials, at least 30 U.S. soldiers participated in the raid along with more than 40 Kurdish commandos. U.S. troops were initially supposed to only provide air support, helicopter lift capabilities and an advisory role but were drawn into the fight when Kurdish forces began suffering casualties.
Friday, the Islamic State posted a video to YouTube showing the aftermath of the raid, including first aid items left behind by the U.S. and Kurdish commandos. Showing discarded equipment, though often inconsequential for those who dropped it, is a common propaganda tactic used by targeted extremist groups.
Medical “blow-out bags” and “bleeder kits,” like those carried by combat medics are meant to open and expend their contents for ease of access during medical emergencies.
Secretary of Defense Ashton B. Carter told reporters on Friday to expect more raids in the coming months as the U.S. mission to “deliver a lasting defeat” to the Islamic State continues to evolve.
“We have this capability. It is a great American strength,” Carter said before adding that though this mission involved U.S. forces in direct ground combat with the Islamic State, it did not indicate a forthcoming combat role.