WASHINGTON—Amid global revulsion over the beheading of an American captive in Syria, the White House revealed Wednesday an audacious rescue attempt deep inside enemy territory earlier this summer ended in failure.
“Dozens” of U.S. soldiers shot their way into an undisclosed Syrian location in a Special Forces mission reminiscent of the raid that captured Osama Bin Laden, Pentagon sources confirmed.
But after killing several Islamic State fighters and sustaining one minor injury of their own, the American raiders came away empty-handed because no hostages were present.
White House officials confirmed the rescue attempt but declined to provide additional details, citing “the need to protect our military’s operational capabilities.”
The rescue attempt “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 our citizens and to hold their captors accountable,” the White House said in a statement attributed to Homeland Security and Counterterrorism adviser Lisa Monaco.
The disclosure came as U.K. and U.S. investigators scoured digital clues in an effort to identify the British-accented executioner of American photojournalist James Foley, whose videotaped beheading continued to send shock waves.
The Guardian, citing unnamed sources, reported the killer was known as “John,” the de facto leader of three British jihadists known to Foley and other hostages as “The Beatles” because of their British accents.
British Prime Minister David Cameron cut short a holiday, saying he was “deeply shocked” and urged “patience” as Scotland Yard works to unravel the role of possible British passport-holders in the grisly killing in Syria.
Obama interrupted a vacation in Martha’s Vineyard to condemn Foley’s murder, saying, “No faith teaches people to massacre innocents.
“ISIL has no ideology of any value to human beings,” said Obama. “They may claim out of expediency that they are at war with the United States or the West, but the fact is they terrorize their neighbours and offer them nothing but an endless slavery to an empty vision, and the collapse of any definition of civilized behaviour personal loans for bad credit.”
With U.S. air strikes intensifying near the Iraqi city of Mosul — at least 14 more aimed at halting the march of the rampaging Islamic State fighters since the gruesome Foley video emerged online Tuesday — concern deepened for a second U.S. hostage, Time magazine freelancer Steven Sotloff.
Obama made no mention of Sotloff, who was shown in the same video as Foley as next in line for execution if the U.S. does not halt air strikes.
Foley’s bereaved parents, meanwhile, braved a media throng outside their home in Rochester, N.H., to praise their son as “the best of America” and to plead for mercy on behalf of Sotloff and other hostages.
John Foley said his son was “courageous to the end.” But in speaking earlier Wednesday with Obama, the elder Foley said he urged the president to “do whatever he could possibly do” to save the lives of Sotloff and others.
The family had held out hope for a breakthrough in the latter part of their son’s 444 days in captivity and was considering a fundraising drive to buy his freedom. But a week before his murder, hope faded with the arrival of an email from Islamic State intermediaries announcing the intention to kill their son.
Foley’s execution also is shining rare light on the murky world of kidnap negotiations and the mismatched ransom policies that see American hostages perish while others, including four French and two Spanish journalists released by Islamic State extremists in April, go free in exchange for large sums of cash.
David Rohde, a former New York Times journalist who managed to escape his Taliban captors without any exchange of money, called Wednesday for an end to secrecy over ransom payments.
“The payment of ransoms and abduction of foreigners must emerge from the shadows,” wrote Rodhe. “It must be publicly debated. American and European policymakers should be forced to answer for their actions.”