The unsuccessful rescue operation “involved air and ground components and was focused on a particular captor network within ISIL,” the Pentagon said in a statement, using a different name for the militant group. “Unfortunately, the mission was not successful because the hostages were not present at the targeted location.”
Officials would not say exactly when the operation took place but said it was not in the last couple of weeks.
Obama authorized the mission “earlier this summer,” Lisa Monaco, Obama’s top counterterrorism aide, said in a separate statement. “The President authorized action at this time because it was the national security team’s assessment that these hostages were in danger with each passing day in ISIL custody,” she said.
British anti-terrorist police began an investigation of the video, in which Foley’s killer spoke with a London accent.
Possibly a British national, the killer is just one of hundreds of European Muslims drawn to join Islamic State, who authorities say pose a security threat to U.S. and European interests if they return home from the Middle East.
Syria has been the most dangerous country for journalists for more than two years. At least 69 other journalists have been killed covering the conflict there and more than 80 journalists have been kidnapped in Syria.
The U.S.-based Committee to Protect Journalists estimates that about 20 journalists are currently missing in Syria. Many of them are believed to be held by Islamic State.