In foiled U.S. attempt to rescue James Foley, U.S. ground forces directly battled ISIS militants

In foiled U.S. attempt to rescue James Foley, U.S. ground forces directly battled ISIS militants
(Image credit: Pool/Getty Images)

A secret operation in Syria earlier this summer to rescue journalist James Foley and other hostages held by ISIS was unsuccessful, the Pentagon announced Wednesday, because they were not at the location targeted.

Senior administration officials told ABC News that the "substantial and complex" operation was authorized by President Obama, after "a broad collection of intelligence" led them to believe that the hostages were at a specific location. "Intelligence is not a perfect science," one official said, adding that "the truth is, we don't know" how it failed.

Officials are not sharing too many details, as to not jeopardize future missions. Several dozen special operation members landed and were met with gunfire, and "while on site, it became apparent the hostages were not there," officials said. One American sustained a minor injury, while ISIS suffered a "good number" of casualties. The operation involved special operations forces from several military branches, helicopters, surveillance aircraft, and fixed-wing airplanes.

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"We never intended to disclose this operation," National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said. "We only went public today when it was clear a number of media outlets were preparing to report on the operation and that we would have no choice but to acknowledge it."

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