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US Special Ops Failed to Find Hostages 08/21 06:19

   President Barack Obama sent special operations troops to Syria this summer 
on a secret mission to rescue American hostages, including journalist James 
Foley, held by Islamic State extremists, but they did not find them, officials 
say.

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Barack Obama sent special operations troops to 
Syria this summer on a secret mission to rescue American hostages, including 
journalist James Foley, held by Islamic State extremists, but they did not find 
them, officials say.

   The rescue mission was authorized after intelligence agencies believed they 
had identified the location inside Syria where the hostages were being held, 
administration officials said Wednesday. But the several dozen special 
operations forces dropped by aircraft into Syria did not find them at that 
location and engaged in a firefight with Islamic State militants before 
departing, killing several militants. No Americans died but one sustained a 
minor injury when an aircraft was hit.

   "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, 
Obama's top counterterrorism adviser, in a statement. "Unfortunately, that 
mission was ultimately not successful because the hostages were not present."

   Officials revealed the rescue operation a day after the militants released a 
video showing the beheading of Foley and threatened to kill a second hostage, 
Steven Sotloff, if U.S. airstrikes against the militants in Iraq continued.

   Despite the militants' threats, the U.S. launched a new barrage of 
airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Iraq Wednesday. The Obama 
administration did not rule out the prospect of a military operation in Syria 
to bring those responsible for Foley's death to justice.

   Disclosure of the rescue mission marks the first time the U.S. has revealed 
that American military personnel have been on the ground in Syria since a 
bloody civil war there broke out more than three years ago. Obama has resisted 
calls to insert the U.S. military in the middle of Syria's war, a cautious 
approach his critics say has allowed the Islamic State to strengthen there and 
make gains across the border in Iraq.

   Caitlin Hayden, spokeswoman for the White House National Security Council, 
said the administration never intended to disclose the operation. But she said 
the U.S. went public Wednesday because a number of media outlets were preparing 
to report on the operation and the administration "would have no choice but to 
acknowledge it."

   In a statement Wednesday night, Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby 
said: "As we have said repeatedly, the United States government is 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 
harm's way to try and bring our citizens home."

   It's unclear how many Americans the special forces attempted to rescue in 
Syria. While the officials who described the mission would not provide an exact 
number, other U.S. officials, who were not authorized to speak publicly, have 
said Foley was one of at least four Americans held in Syria.

   Like Foley, two others are believed to have been kidnapped by the Islamic 
State. The fourth, freelance journalist Austin Tice, disappeared in Syria in 
August 2012 and is believed to be in the custody of government forces in Syria.

   Administration officials would not say specifically when or where the 
operation took place, citing the need to protect operational details in order 
to preserve the ability to carry out future rescue missions. They did say that 
nearly every branch of the military was involved and that the special forces on 
the ground were supported from the air by fixed wing, rotary and surveillance 
aircraft.

   Obama has authorized previous military missions to rescue hostages. In 2009, 
Navy SEAL snipers carried out a daring sea operation to rescue an American ship 
captain held by Somali pirates in a lifeboat. And in 2012, special operations 
forces successfully rescued two aid workers --- an American and a Dane --- held 
in Somalia.


(KA)


 
 
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