Iraqi Kurdish forces in anti-ISIS commando raid: officials

Iraqi forces have been slowly closing in on Hawijah in recent months

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Iraqi Kurdish forces carried out a commando operation near Hawijah in which several senior members of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) were captured or killed, local and security sources said Saturday.

The operation involved helicopters and bore similarities with a joint raid elite Kurdish troops conducted in October with U.S. special forces also near Hawijah, the sources said.

Local Iraqi security officials said the raid took place overnight in the town of Riyadh, south east of ISIS-held Hawijah and south-west of Kurdish-controlled Kirkuk.

“The operation targeted a Daesh (ISIS) hideout,” said Sarhad Qadir, a police brigadier general in Kirkuk district.

“A fight erupted between the two sides which led to the death of several Daesh members and the arrest of another group of them,” he told AFP.

Qadir and other officials said a local ISIS leader called Hussein al-Assafi was among those killed in the operation.

Some sources said the raid was a joint operation with U.S. commandos but the U.S.-led anti-ISIS coalition’s spokesman, Colonel Steve Warren, denied any involvement.

Rokan Mekhlef Jassem, a police captain from Hawijah, said nine IS members were detained and 12 killed, but no confirmation was immediately available from the government of the autonomous Kurdish region.

Ibrahim al-Juburi, an official in the Hawijah mayor’s office before the area was taken over by ISIS last year, also confirmed a raid on a jihadist hideout.

He said Assafi was a member of the Islamic Army from 2003 to 2010 and then of the Ansar al-Sunna insurgent group.

He pledged allegiance when ISIS took over in June 2014 and was made a militant chief in Riyadh, Juburi said.

Iraqi forces, including fighters from the Popular Mobilisation paramilitary organization and from the Kurdish peshmerga, have been slowly closing in on Hawijah in recent months.

Kurdish anti-terrorism forces and U.S. special forces conducted a raid on October 23 during which 70 captives described as facing imminent execution were freed.

A U.S. serviceman died of wounds sustained during the brazen operation, which seemed to mark a break from Washington’s declared “no boots on the ground policy.”

The U.S. defense secretary, Ashton Carter, said the next day that he expected more such raids in the future.

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