WASHINGTON — A team of several dozen U.S. Special Forces operators entered Syria earlier this summer in a failed bid to rescue “several” American captives, including journalist James Foley, only to discover once on the ground that the hostages had been moved, senior U.S. officials said Wednesday.
It was the first time that U.S. officials revealed that U.S. troops have entered Syria since the civil war erupted there in mid-2012, and the disclosure offered insight into how much the United States knew about Foley’s location and captivity.
The U.S. operation was authorized by President Barack Obama after several threads of intelligence indicated where the hostages were being held, senior administration officials said in a briefing to reporters.
“That mission was mounted through the substantial efforts of our military and intelligence,” said one senior administration official.
The raiding force consisted of members from nearly every U.S. military service and was supported by fixed wing, rotary and surveillance aircraft. They arrived at the site by air, conducted a search by foot and when they discovered that the hostages were not there, left, the officials said, taking hostile fire along the way.
One operator was injured when fired upon while in the air.
In addition, during the operation, “We do believe that there were a good number of ISIL casualties,” a senior administration official said, although he did not offer specifics.
The officials would not say how many Americans they sought to rescue or how long the operators were on the ground.