This operation involved air and ground components and was focused on a particular captor network within IS.
Unfortunately, the secret mission this summer in Syria was not successful because the hostages were not present at the targeted location, Xinhua quoted the official as saying.
The news came a day after a video released on Tuesday by IS showed the beheading of American journalist James Foley by them.
"As we have said repeatedly, the United States government is committed to the safety and well-being of its citizens, particularly those suffering in captivity," Kirby said. "In this case, we put the best of the United States military in harms' way to try and bring our citizens home."
The US government uses the full breadth of its military, intelligence and diplomatic capabilities to bring people home whenever it can, Kirby said.
"The United States will not tolerate the abduction of our people, and will work tirelessly to secure the safety of our citizens and to hold their captors accountable," he said.
President Barack Obama on Wednesday condemned the IS forces believed to be behind the beheading of James Foley, labelling the group a "cancer" and calling on Muslims around the world to reject its brand of "hateful terrorism".
He pledged that the US will be vigilant and relentless in protecting Americans. "We'll do what's necessary to see that justice is done."
Obama said on Wednesday that the entire world was "appalled" by the execution of Foley by Islamic State's jihadist militants.