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US Captures IS Operative in Iraq

U.S. Special Operations forces have captured a suspected Islamic State operative in Iraq, U.S. defense officials said Wednesday.

The captive is the first known detainee since a U.S. expeditionary targeting force began conducting operations in Iraq and Syria. The force was sent to carry out raids for gathering intelligence and targeting high-ranking IS leaders.

Officials say Americans are interrogating the detainee, who is expected to be turned over to Iraqi officials in the coming days.

"Any detention would be short-term and coordinated with Iraqi authorities," Col. Pat Ryder, a spokesman for U.S. Central Command that oversees U.S. operations in the Middle East, told reporters. He would not elaborate further.

So far, the raids of the U.S. expeditionary targeting force have been shrouded in secrecy in order to protect future missions.

"Raids beget follow-on operations," a defense official told VOA. “As you learn something from one, you can get follow-ons that lead to another.”

‘Aha moment’

The targeting force in Iraq was formed after a successful raid last year in which a U.S. Delta force crossed into Syria and killed IS commander Abu Sayyaf. The commander's wife, Umm Sayyaf, was captured during the raid.

Umm Sayyaf's interrogation provided the U.S. with valuable information about IS leadership organization, according to officials. It also provided information about Kayla Mueller, the 26-year-old American aid worker whom the Sayyafs allegedly held prisoner in their home.

FILE - This undated handout photo shows 26-year-old Kayla Mueller(L) and her mother Marsha Mueller.

FILE - This undated handout photo shows 26-year-old Kayla Mueller(L) and her mother Marsha Mueller.

Umm Sayyaf eventually was turned over to Iraqi authorities.

A defense official told VOA the Abu Sayyaf raid led to an "aha moment" for the Pentagon.

"There was this recognition afterward that leaving a pile of smoking rubble might not always be the best way to go. If you're willing to take a little risk and raid, then you can get information that is very valuable," the official said.

Last month, the U.S. Justice Department charged Umm Sayyaf for her alleged role in Kayla Mueller's death in February 2015.

U.S. officials say Mueller was subjected to repeated sexual abuse by IS chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi during her captivity.

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    Carla Babb

    Carla is VOA's Pentagon correspondent covering defense and international security issues. Her datelines include Ukraine, Turkey, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq and Korea.