The Pentagon identified the first U.S. servicemember killed in the fight against the Islamic State as Master Sgt. Joshua Wheeler in a statement Friday morning.
The 39-year-old of Roland, Oklahoma, died Thursday after a hostage rescue mission at an Islamic State (IS, also known as ISIL or ISIS) prison in northern Iraq during which he was wounded by enemy fire.
Wheeler was assigned to the U.S. Army Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
According to the Pentagon, U.S. and Kurdish forces raided the IS prison compound near the northern town of Hawija in Iraq at the request of the Kurdish Regional Government, the Associated Press reported. The mission resulted in the rescue of about 70 Iraqi prisoners, over 20 of whom belonged to the Iraqi security forces, who faced "imminent mass execution."
"This operation was deliberately planned and launched after receiving information that the hostages faced imminent mass execution," Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said Thursday.
Cook also said that Defense Secretary Ash Carter signed off on U.S. participation in the mission, which he described as "consistent with our counter-ISIL effort to train, advise, and assist Iraqi forces."
"They are allowed to defend themselves, and also defend partner forces, and to protect against the loss of innocent life," the spokesman said of U.S. forces participating in Operation Inherent Resolve in Iraq. "And that’s what played out in this particular operation."
Cook would only say that "a number" of IS terrorists were killed in the raid. The Kurdish government put the figure at more than 20.
Five IS fighters were detained in the raid.