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US commando killed in Iraqi hostage raid named

The commando killed in a raid against the Islamic State group in northern Iraq has been identified as Master Sergeant Joshua L Wheeler.

US Army Colonel Steve Warren said Wheeler, 39, was killed on Thursday when dozens of US special operations troops and Iraqi forces raided a compound near the city of Kirkuk, freeing around 70 Iraqi prisoners from captivity.

Wheeler, a native of Roland, Oklahoma, is the first American to die in combat since the US launched Operation Inherent Resolve, its campaign against the Islamic State group, last year.

The US Department of Defence said Wheeler died from wounds caused by small-arms fire during the operation.

He was assigned to the US Army Special Operations Command in Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

The raid targeted a prison near the town of Hawija and was undertaken at the request of the Kurdish Regional Government, the semi-autonomous body that governs the Kurdish region of northern Iraq.

Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook said US special operations forces had been asked to support an operation to rescue fighters with the Iraqi peshmerga, the Kurdish region's organised militia. The Kurdish government later said that none of the hostages were Kurdish.

The raiders killed and captured a number of militants and recovered what the Pentagon called a trove of valuable intelligence about the terrorist organisation.

US combat troops have rarely, if ever, participated directly in combat against IS fighters on the ground since the US mission began in 2014. The US has mostly limited its role to training and advising Iraqi and Kurdish forces, airdropping humanitarian relief supplies and providing daily airstrikes in IS-held areas of Iraq and Syria.

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