Good afternoon. For those of you who don’t already know me, I am Colonel Steve Warren, the CJTF-OIR spokesperson.
I am here to talk about the hostage rescue operation that took place Thursday morning near Hawija. Before we discuss this, I would like to make a few comments:
First, U.S. led-Coalition forces are operating in Iraq at the invitation of the Government of Iraq. Our support includes:
- Advise and assist
- Training and Equipment
Second, I would like to mention an operation that also took place the same night as the hostage rescue. That operation targeted the Omar oil fields in Syria. U.S.-led Coalition aircraft struck 26 targets in the Omar oil field complex. This is important for several reasons:
- Da’esh finances its operations through illegal oil revenue
- These strikes will reduce Da’esh’s ability to finance its terror operations
I am highlighting this because it is part of a bigger picture. I want everyone to understand that we are fighting Da’esh everywhere:
- In Syria – in Raqqa, Kobani, and other locations
- In Iraq – in Ramadi, Bayji, Hawija, and other locations
Iraqi security forces are squeezing Da’esh on the ground, and if Da’esh moves, U.S.-led Coalition will kill them from the air.Da’esh has nowhere to run.
As for the hostage rescue operation, I would like to make a few points:
- The Iraqi government was informed of this operation
- We conducted this operation in our advise-and-assist capacity
- There has been no change in our policy
- We are not conducting combat operations in Iraq
Regarding the specifics of the operation, here’s what happened.
- Kurdish regional authorities requested American assistance to rescue hostages being held by Da’esh.
- We agreed to provide helicopters to transport Kurdish forces.
- Kurdish forces attacked the Da’esh prison where hostages were being held, Kurdish forces killed 15 guards and freed 70 hostages.
- Unfortunately, one American, who was there as an advisor, was killed during the mission.
- After the hostages were safe, American F-15s flattened the Da’esh prison to make sure that this torture chamber could never again be used for evil.
- This operation was urgent. We knew the hostages would soon be murdered. We knew this because we saw freshly dug graves – and the hostages later told us that they were to be executed that same day after morning prayers.
- Thanks to this operation, 22 members of the Iraqi Security Forces will return to their families.
I am now happy to take your questions.