The White House and Department of Defense released statements Wednesday night regarding an attempt earlier this summer to free hostages held by the Islamic State in Syria, including journalist James Foley, whose execution was announced Tuesday by the militants.
According to Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby, the U.S. had hoped to reclaim multiple hostages on the mission:
“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.”
White House national security official Lisa Monaco said in her statement that the president had authorized the unsuccessful operation. Monaco praised the soldiers involved:
“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.”
The Washington Post reports that the mission was spurred in part by intelligence provided by other Western hostages that Islamic State militants had released.
Caitlin Hayden, spokeswoman for the White House National Security Council, told The Associated Press that the administration never intended to disclose the operation. But she said the U.S. went public with mission 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.”
The AP notes that two other journalists are believed to have been kidnapped by the Islamic State, while another is believed to be in the custody of government forces in Syria.