The US military attempted to rescue “a number of American hostages held in Syria by the Islamic State,” the Department of Defense’s spokesman said today. The rescue attempt failed as the hostages were not at the location of the raid.
“The United States attempted a rescue operation recently to free a number of American hostages held in Syria by the [Islamic State,or ISIL],” Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby said in a statement released on the Department of Defense’s website. “This operation involved air and ground components and was focused on a particular captor network within ISIL. Unfortunately, the mission was not successful because the hostages were not present at the targeted location.”
The exact location of the raid inside Syria, which took place early this summer, was not disclosed by the US military.
Kirby indicated that top tier US special operations forces — two squads of Army Delta Force — were involved in the rescue operation, according to The New York Times. “In this case, we put the best of the United States military in harms’ way to try and bring our citizens home,” Kirby said.
One soldier was wounded in the raid. Kirby indicated that the military will continue to seek to free the US hostages.
“The United States government uses the full breadth of our military, intelligence and diplomatic capabilities to bring people home whenever we can,” he said. “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.”
The Islamic State is known to hold one American journalist, Steven Joel Sotloff, who was captured near the Syria-Turkey border in August 2013. Kirby was clear that there are multiple hostages. At least three other Americans, Austin Tice, and two others who have not been named at the request of their families, are known to have disappeared in Syria. A US intelligence official told The Long War Journal that Tice and the other two Americans are also being held by the Islamic State.
The US has launched at least one other special operations raid in Syria since 2008. In October 2008, special operations forces killed Abu Ghadiya, a senior al Qaeda leader who has been in charge of the group’s Syrian network since 2005, and several aides during a raid in Albu Kamal. The Al Nusrah Front, al Qaeda’s official branch in Syria, has named a training camp after Abu Ghadiya.
Military continues airstrikes against Islamic State despite threats
The military’s announcement of the hostage rescue operation took place just one day after the Islamic State beheaded James Wright Foley, an American journalist who was captured by the group in Binesh, Syria on Nov. 22, 2012. A videotape of the execution was released on the Internet.
The Islamic State has threatened to kill Soltoff if the US does not end the airstrikes against the jihadist group in northern Iraq.
“The life of this American citizen, Obama, depends on your next decision,” Foley’s executioner said as he grasped the collar of the orange jumpsuit worn by a terrified Sotloff.
But the US military said today that it is continuing air operations in Iraq. In a press release issued by US Central Command, the military said it executed 14 airstrikes against Islamic State “terrorists in support of Iraqi security force operations, using fighter, remotely piloted and attack aircraft.”
“The strikes destroyed or damaged six ISIL Humvees, three IED emplacements, one mortar tube, and two armed trucks,” CENTCOM said.
CENTCOM confirmed that the US military has launched “a total of 84 airstrikes across Iraq … and of those 84 strikes, 51 have been in support of Iraqi forces near the Mosul Dam.”
The US military has aided the advance of the Iraqi military and Kurdish Peshmerga to retake the Mosul Dam and nearby towns after the Peshmerga retreated after putting up little opposition in early August.
Earlier today, US Secretary of State John Kerry referred to the Islamic State as “evil” in a statement condemning the execution of Foley.