The United States has reportedly aborted an effort to rescue a Jordanian pilot captured by the Islamic State near Raqqa, Syria– the proclaimed “capital” of the Islamic State.
The operation described by International Business Times on Thursday night would have been an audacious raid on the Islamic State’s self-proclaimed capital of Raqqa in Syria by U.S. special forces operators, who tried save the hostages while a series of raids on the outskirts of the city distracted the terrorists. Unfortunately, the two rescue missions staged during the raid on Raqqa did not succeed, according to anti-ISIS activists in the city, whose account has not yet been officially confirmed:
According to activists, the operation took place around 20km east of the main city centre. Abu Ibrahim al-Raquaoui, an activist in Raqqa and administrator for the secret anti-IS campaign Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently, confirmed that the two attempted rescue operations were made last night.
Five coalition aircrafts reportedly hovered at low altitude over the city, while more than 12 raids were carried out on the outskirts. Reconnaissance planes were used to help aid the attacks, destroying a number of key IS buildings.
At the other end of the city, two helicopter gunships attempted to deploy special forces on the ground to rescue the hostages. However both gunships quickly came under heavy fire from IS militants in the Rumelia area, northeast Raqqa.
Eyewitnesses said they heard gunshots and helicopter gunships circling in the area.
Faced by heavy gunfire from IS militants, both helicopters were forced to abort their attempted landing. Strong clashes erupted, centring around al-Saqiya Street, where the helicopters had tried to land.
Another attempt was made to land in the countryside of eastern Raqqa between villages in the Alekershi area, and fighting ensued.
The IBT glumly notes that hostage rescue missions against the Islamic State have rarely succeeded efficiently because the jihadists are well-armed (in many cases with American equipment seized from routed Iraqi forces), effectively disciplined, and smart enough to move their high-value captives around:
Last July, US Special Forces moved to rescue several American and British hostages who were being held captive by IS in the al-Ekershi area in the eastern Raqqa countryside.
The operation ended in failure after IS militants moved the hostages to another location, just hours before the attempted rescue operation.
Jordanian army troops were reportedly involved in the July operation, with some eyewitnesses claiming they saw soldiers wearing Jordanian army fatigues. Two American soldiers were said to be injured in the attack, near the Osama bin Laden training camp.
While the hostage rescue operation has yet to be confirmed by the U.S. government, all evidence points to intense military activity over Raqqa, explicitly in response to the capture of Lt. Moaz al-Kasasbeh, who fell into the hands of the terrorist group after his plane was hit. Official damage and casualty estimates are still pending.
The group captured the Jordanian pilot after claiming to take his plane out with a heat-seeking missile — a claim the prisoner was forced to confirm in a “magazine interview,” although both Jordanian and U.S. authorities continue to dispute a missile strike as the reason his F-16 fighter went down.
(Yes, ISIS has a magazine. It’s called Dabiq, and is printed in English, for easier consumption by new recruits from around the world. Captive pilot Moaz al-Kasasbeh was pictured in an orange jumpsuit, even though those orange jumpsuits were supposedly ISIS’ critique of Guantanamo Bay, which President Obama is emptying out as fast as he can. The same issue includes some thoughts from captive British journalist John Cantile about the wisdom of the Islamic State minting its own currency.)
The capture of Lt. Kasasbeh rattled the Jordanians enough to suspend their bombing operations, at least temporarily, as a member of the Jordanian parliament explained to National Public Radio. He said the pilot’s capture had strengthened the anti-war faction in Jordan, “because they’re talking about a thousand Kassasbeh to come if we continue participating in this war.” He added that the Jordanian government would “do whatever is necessary to get Lt. Kasasbeh out of there” with “no red lines whatsoever”… a promise that could be interpreted either as willingness to make a generous deal with ISIS to secure the pilot’s release, or the staging of a mission to rescue him.
Since the special operators reportedly involved in a thwarted hostage rescue mission last night were riding in helicopters, the media can go on pretending that Obama isn’t putting “boots on the ground” against ISIS for a little while longer.