By Oliver Holmes and Jason Szep BEIRUT/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - It was just after midnight on July 4 when at least two dozen U.S. Delta Force commandos arrived on heavily armed Black Hawk helicopters in Akrishi, a small town near the eastern Syrian city of Raqqa on the bank of the Euphrates River. Before they landed to search for American hostages including journalist James Foley, they destroyed a crucial target: anti-aircraft weapons at a jihadist base about 3 miles (5 km) southeast of the city, a stronghold of Islamic State militants seeking to build a monolithic Islamic state. The above account and other details of the raid have emerged from witnesses who spoke with a member of a Syrian opposition activist group, who identified himself as Abu Ibrahim al Raqaoui. Raqaoui told the information to Reuters in an interview via Skype from inside Syria. His group also posted witness accounts of the raid on Facebook soon after it took place. The posts, which were viewed by Reuters, have since been taken down. "The raid happened just after midnight," Raqaoui said. "The helicopters first started destroying anti-aircraft weapons.”Reuters could not verify the account. The White House publicized details of the raid on Wednesday, a day after Islamic State jihadists posted a video showing Foley being beheaded. The White House said the commandos failed to find Foley or other hostages and that it was prompted to make the announcement after several U.S. news organizations learned of the operation. The U.S. military incursion into the heart of Islamic State territory, made on U.S. Independence Day, ended in disappointment when the soldiers found no prisoners. "BURNED THE CAMP" After landing, the commandos blocked the main road to Raqqa and moved toward a makeshift jail believed to hold Foley and other hostages, Raqaoui said. Discovering Foley wasn’t there, they attacked the base, which the militants had named "Bin Laden", after the former al-Qaeda leader, Osama bin Laden, Raqaoui said. They lit it on fire, he said. "According to villagers, they burned the camp and killed all the ISIS fighters,” he said, using one of the acronyms that refer to the Islamic State. U.S. officials said “many” Islamic State fighters were killed and one American soldier was wounded when a helicopter came under fire. Raqaoui’s account puts the number of wounded U.S. soldiers at two. The mission was authorized by President Barack Obama and based on U.S. intelligence, including information from hostages who have been released, the administration said. U.S. officials would not confirm that it was on July 4. It was first direct ground engagement between the United States and Islamic State militants, and the first known U.S. ground operation in Syria since the start of its civil war in 2011. The raid's failure to bring hostages home underscores the limits of U.S. intelligence about Syria's chaotic conflict. “We believed we had a good case for where they might be,” said one U.S. official who declined to be identified. MILITANTS TIPPED OFF A Syrian source close to the Islamic State told Reuters that the militants had been tipped off to the planned operation when Americans were seen asking about the hostages in the Turkish city of Antakya, about 12 miles (20 km) from the Syrian border. “The Americans were looking for their hostages and desperately looking for any information,” said this person, who spoke to Reuters on the condition of anonymity. “They met people in Antakya and asked questions. Afterwards, the operation became expected. The (Islamic) State anticipated the operation and took precautions. They expected it and that is why they have probably changed the location of the hostages.” Rami Abdelrahman, founder of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors violence in the Syrian war via a network of activists across the country, said that at the time of the operation last month, his activists in Raqqa received a report from a single source close to the Islamic State saying that there had been a raid in the area by American troops. “The residents said they heard the noise of aircraft and gunfire but did not know more than that,” he said. The source close to the Islamic State had said at the time that some of the Americans had been killed, Abdelrahman said. The source said Islamic State fighters also had been hurt. “They said some of the brothers were wounded.” The Committee to Protect Journalists, a U.S. independent group, estimates that two dozen kidnapped journalists, both local and foreigners, remain in Syria, including American Steven Sotloff who was shown at the end of the Islamic State video on Tuesday. The militant who killed Foley warned that Sotloff would be next if U.S air strikes persist. U.S. warplanes and drones have continued daily attacks on Islamic State positions in Iraq. U.S. officials say they have not ruled out escalating military action against the jihadists, who have increased their threats against the United States since the air campaign in Iraq began two weeks ago. (Writing by Jason Szep, additional reporting by Mariam Karouny and Tom Perry in Beirut, and Steve Holland and Missy Ryan in Washington; editing by Peter Henderson)
Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting
Driving recklessly comes with consequences…
- In The Know
This father was not playing games — but he didn't lose his cool either.
- Women's Health
She loves to run—just not on the treadmill.
Many Twitter users responded to the Ohio Republican's poll with a single damning word.
- NBC Sports Boston
The 2021 MLB trade deadline has passed. Let's take a look at how the Red Sox and the rest of the league did.
- KGO – San Francisco
There are zip codes in five Bay Area cities where vaccination rates are the lowest, with 45 to 60% of the population still not fully vaccinated. Experts say these Bay Area neighborhoods are driving most of the transmission fueling our fourth COVID-19 surge.
- NBC Sports BayArea
The Giants had Kris Bryant atop their wish list, and for good reason.
- Bills Wire
Post-Carson Wentz injury, could the #Bills via Mitchell Trubisky be of assistant? Pros and cons of such a situation here:
Biden references a long-running Trump joke.
- NBC Sports Philadelphia
A year after basically being untouchable, the Phillies used Spencer Howard as a trade chip to address pitching holes that he was unable to fill. By Jim Salisbury
Do you have your sunglasses on?
- NBC Sports
The biggest winner is Westbrook himself.
- The Week
Disney issues scathing response to Scarlett Johansson's Black Widow lawsuit
- NBC Sports Boston
The Boston Celtics reportedly have traded big man Tristan Thompson while acquiring point guard Kris Dunn and a 2023 second-round draft pick from the Atlanta Hawks in a three-team deal.
- NBC Sports BayArea
Bob Myers said the Warriors will look to free agency to add the pieces needed to become contenders. Here are five possible options for Golden State to look at.
After Kourtney Kardashian tattooed her boyfriend Travis Barker, she let him return the favor by giving her a haircut
- NBC Sports Boston
The Boston Red Sox have acquired slugging outfielder Kyle Schwarber from the Washington Nationals.
- NBC Sports
Mexico will face the USMNT in the Gold Cup final after beating Canada in highly controversial fashion.
Simone Biles likely couldn't bring her ADHD medication to Tokyo, and it may have affected her ability to perform
Biles - who takes ADHD medication that is banned for the disorder in Japan - withdrew from both Olympic all-around finals over mental-health concerns.
- Business Insider
Marjorie Taylor Greene and Matt Gaetz showed up unannounced to the jail where several Capitol riot suspects are being held and were turned away. They're now accusing DC authorities of 'hiding something.'
Greene and Gaetz visited the DC Department of Corrections on Thursday, asking to view the conditions of the Jan. 6 riot suspects.