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Iraqi Kurds rescue Swedish teen from ISIS territory

Peshmerga fighters inspect the remains of a car, bearing an image of the trademark jihadist flag, which belonged to Islamic State (ISIS) militants after it was targeted by an American airstrike in the village of Baqufa, north of Mosul, Aug. 18,2014.

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Last Updated Feb 23, 2016 9:15 AM EST

LONDON -- The government of Iraq's semi-autonomous Kurdistan Region said Tuesday that Kurdish troops had rescued a 16-year-old Swedish girl who was "misled" by an Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militant and travelled to Syria and then onto the extremists' stronghold in Iraq.

"The Kurdistan Region Security Council was called upon by Swedish authorities and members of her family to assist in locating and rescuing her," a statement said.

The girl was identified by the Kurds as a teenager from the city of Borås, east of Gothenburg.

The Kurds said she was rescued by special forces troops in ISIS-controlled territory near Mosul on Feb. 17, and that she was now being cared for in Kurdistan.

The Kurdistan Region authority said she would be transferred to Swedish custody "to return home once necessary arrangements are put place."

Peshmerga troops, the Iraqi Kurds' military force, have been one of the most effective against ISIS on the ground, working in conjunction with Iraqi national forces and U.S. support to reclaim significant ground from the militant group during the past year.

Mosul, Iraq's third-largest city, has been the terror group's main prize in Iraq, and Iraq's government has been planning to stage a major offensive -- in conjunction with the Kurds and the U.S. -- to reclaim it.

In January, U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter signaled the completion of a military plan to help Iraqi and Peshmerga forces retake Mosul.

He described operations that would send Iraqi forces from the south and Peshmerga forces from the north to encircle and cut off Mosul. But he warned that taking it back would not be quick or easy.

It remained unclear exactly how the young Swedish national rescued by the Kurds ended up in Mosul. ISIS has recruited hundreds of fighters from Europe, and many have struck up relationships online with young women back at home and convinced them to come live in ISIS territory.

As CBS News learned in 2014, there are, however, many young women who reach the extremists' territory only to realize the image they were sold of life under ISIS' strict interpretation of Islamic law is far from the reality.

Abdullah, a Turkish aid worker who spent half his years in Syria, told CBS News he was contacted by a 16-year-old British girl, asking for help getting her and a teenage Moroccan friend out.

"She was very dispirited. 'I need you to help me. I need to get out,' she said. And then she explained her situation. They were living in a house of single women in an ISIS town. They were not allowed to leave the house or be in touch with anyone from their families. Their worst fear was that they would be forced into marrying someone against their will."

As Clarissa Ward reported, trying to leave ISIS territory can be a difficult and dangerous proposition. Women cannot travel without a male guardian. Many have their passports confiscated upon their arrival.

  • Tucker Reals

    Tucker Reals is the CBSNews.com foreign editor, based at the CBS News London bureau.