The Obama administration revealed late Wednesday that the president authorized a mission earlier this year to rescue photojournalist James Foley and other Americans held captive in Syria by Islamist militants, but the operation failed.
“The U.S. government had what we believed was sufficient intelligence, and when the opportunity presented itself, the president authorized the Department of Defense to move aggressively to recover our citizens,” said Lisa Monaco, assistant to the president for homeland security and counterterrorism. “Unfortunately, that mission was not successful because the hostages were not present.”
The White House did not reveal exactly when or where in Syria the mission took place. Citing administration sources, the Associated Press reported that a “number of militants” were killed in the operation and one American sustained a minor injury.
The revelation comes one day after the terrorist group the Islamic State beheaded Foley, a 40-year-old photojournalist who was covering the Syrian civil war, and posted video of his death to YouTube.
The terrorist organization also is holding another American journalist, Steven Joel Sotloff. Sotloff is shown in the video on his knees and clad in an orange jumpsuit.
Even though the operation did not succeed, the White House is casting it as proof that the U.S. will do whatever it can to rescue Americans held captive abroad.
“The president could not be prouder of the U.S. forces who carried out this mission,” Ms. Monaco said. “Their effort should serve as another signal to those who would do us harm that the United States will not tolerate the abduction of our people, and will spare no effort to secure the safety of our citizens and to hold their captors accountable.”