02 White House FILE
Washington CNN  — 

President Donald Trump plans to award the Medal of Honor to an Army Ranger who helped rescue more than 70 hostages being held by Islamic State militants in Iraq in 2015.

The White House announced Thursday that the President will recognize Army Sgt. Maj. Thomas P. Payne with the award on September 11 for “conspicuous gallantry.”

Payne had led a combined assault team during a “daring nighttime hostage rescue” in Kirkuk province, Iraq, the White House said in a statement.

“Sergeant Payne’s extraordinary heroism and selfless actions were key to liberating 75 hostages during a contested rescue mission that resulted in 20 enemy fighters killed in action,” the statement said.

Mass graves dug inside the compound had been spotted during surveillance, a US official with direct knowledge of details of the raid told CNN at the time. After the rescue, hostages said they had been told they would be executed after morning prayers.

The Medal of Honor is the most prestigious decoration in the US military. Recipients must have demonstrated “incontestable proof of the performance of the meritorious conduct, and each recommendation for the award must be considered on the standard of extraordinary merit,” the White House statement said.

CNN’s Barbara Starr, Jim Sciutto and Ray Sanchez contributed to this report.