Two attempted rescue missions to save hostages held by Islamic State (Isis) in Syria ended in failure last night, according to reports.
The failed operations took place in the self-proclaimed IS capital city of Raqqa on 1 January. The target was to retrieve a number of hostages including Muadh al-Kasasbeh, the Jordanian pilot who was captured by Islamic State after his plane was downed over IS territory.
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.
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.