U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said U.S. forces retrieved a "significant cache" of intelligence on the Islamic State group in a raid in northern Iraq this week that freed 70 IS captives.
U.S. Special Operations Forces and Kurdish peshmerga forces stormed an IS-run prison near Hawijah in northern Iraq October 22, freeing Iraqi captives who were facing imminent execution.
"I expect we'll do more of this kind of thing," Carter said at a Pentagon briefing October 23. "You learn a great deal because you collect the documentation, you collect various electronic equipment and so forth... So the sum of all this will be some valuable intelligence."
Carter said some of the captives rescued confirmed they had expected to be executed that day. IS had already dug their mass graves.
The raid prevented IS "from broadcasting a horrific massacre to the world," Carter said.
The raid also produced the first U.S. casualty in the campaign against IS that started more than a year ago. Carter praised the highly decorated soldier who was killed, Master Sergeant Joshua Wheeler, a member of the elite Delta Force.
"This is someone who saw the team that he was advising and assisting coming under attack. And he rushed to help them and made it possible for them to be effective," Carter said.
"And in doing that, lost his own life. That's why I'm proud of him... He ran to the sound of the gun."
Wheeler had been awarded 11 Bronze Stars and other commendations. He is receiving a Purple Heart posthumously.
With reporting by Reuters, dpa, and AFP