Special Ops teams reportedly launched the mission in Syria only to find out on the ground that the Americans were being held in a different location. The intelligence was based on information from hostages who were released last spring, according to the Washington Post.
Officials described what they called a "complicated operation" in which several dozen commandos were dropped into a remote area of Syria where American intelligence agencies believed several hostages were being held.
But when the Special Operations team arrived on the scene, the hostages were not there. Officials said the commandos exchanged fire with militants, and one American was slightly wounded when one of the United States aircraft came under fire.
The White House reportedly authorized officials to speak to reporters anonymously about the mission, the first acknowledgement of a US presence in Syria since 2012.
According to the Washington Post, negotiations were being conducted behind the scenes as late as last week.
According to his employer, the Boston-based Web site GlobalPost, he was held in eastern Syria with at least a dozen other captives, including other Western journalists, by British members of the militant organization who last week sent his employer an e-mail threatening to kill him.
"We knew exactly where he was from the released hostages," GlobalPost president and chief executive Philip Balboni said. "We knew that his immediate jailers were British jihadists."
Balboni, who was deeply involved in attempts to negotiate Foley's release, declined to specify the exact location. "There was talk of paying a ransom," he said. "I think the fact that others were released for money certainly gave us hope that a similar outcome could be effectuated for Jim."
He said that the militants had instructed the family not to speak to the media. Foley's parents sent a response, he said, describing their son as an innocent journalist who cared deeply about the Syrian people and respected their religion.
According to the Washington Post, Foley was able to contact his parents last spring through the released hostages—"one of whom memorized a letter from their son and recited to them in a telephone call."
The LA Times reports Foley's family—who had recently traveled to France and Denmark for their son—believed they were "very close" to securing his release.
[image via AP]