Obama ordered secret raid to free hostages in Syria
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By Kristina Wong - 08/20/14 07:11 PM EDT
U.S. special forces attempted an unsuccessful rescue operation in Syria earlier this summer to free American journalist James Foley and other hostages being held by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, administration officials said Wednesday.
"Unfortunately, the mission was not successful because the hostages were not present at the targeted location," said Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby in a statement.
The administration disclosed the mission one day after ISIS released a video showing a member of the extremist group beheading Foley. The group is threatening to kill another U.S. journalist in captivity, unless the U.S. halts airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq.
Senior officials who briefed reporters on Wednesday did not identify the date or location of the secret operation, or the number of hostages held by ISIS.
One American servicemember received a "minor injury" during the operation when aircraft took fire, but there were no U.S. fatalities. Special forces, though, inflicted a “good number” of casualties on ISIS fighters, one official added.
The rescue operation was approved after at least six Western hostages who were freed by ISIS were debriefed by U.S. intelligence officials, according to the Post.
Current and former officials told the Post separately that Foley and others had been at the site, but had apparently been moved before the rescue attempt.
The operation was conducted by a joint force with virtually every service represented, and included special operators, surveillance drones, fixed wing aircraft and helicopters, officials told the Washington Post.
Modified Black Hawks flown by the Army's 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment also took part in the operation, and received heavy fire.
President Obama earlier Wednesday paid tribute to Foley and vowed that the U.S. would be “relentless” and “vigorous” in protecting Americans abroad.
Obama did not lay out any further military actions, saying only that, "when people harm Americans, anywhere, we do what’s necessary to see that 'justice' is done."
Kirby said the U.S. remains committed "to the safety and well-being of its citizens, particularly those suffering in captivity."
"In this case, we put the best of the United States military in harms' way to try and bring our citizens home," he said. "The United States government uses the full breadth of our military, intelligence and diplomatic capabilities to bring people home whenever we can.
"The United States will not tolerate the abduction of our people, and will work tirelessly to secure the safety of our citizens and to hold their captors accountable," he said.