Tags: ISIS/Islamic State | kayla mueller | death | confirmed | obama | family

White House Confirms Death of US Woman Held by ISIS

White House Confirms Death of US Woman Held by ISIS
Kayla Jean Mueller. (Matt Hinshaw/The Daily Courier/AP)

By    |   Tuesday, 10 February 2015 10:11 AM

President Barack Obama and the family of U.S. aid worker Kayla Mueller confirmed on Tuesday that the last-known American hostage held by Islamic State militants had died, with Obama promising to "find and bring to justice the terrorists who are responsible."

U.S. officials said the family received an email and photograph over the weekend from her captors that confirmed her death but said the circumstances in which she died remained unclear.

Mueller, 26, was captured in August 2013 while leaving a hospital in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo. She previously had been working in Turkey providing humanitarian assistance to refugees from Syria's bloody civil war.

Islamic State said on Friday that Mueller was killed when Jordanian fighter jets bombed a building where she was being held outside Raqqa, a stronghold of the Islamist militant group.

Jordan and U.S. officials have expressed doubt about the account of her death offered by Islamic State, an al Qaeda offshoot that controls wide areas of Syria and Iraq.

Mueller's family said in a statement on Tuesday that they were "heartbroken" to learn of her death and released a copy of a letter she had written in 2014 while in captivity.

"Over the weekend, the family received a private message from Kayla's ISIL captors containing additional information," White House National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan said, using an acronym for Islamic State.

"Once this information was authenticated by the intelligence community, they concluded that Kayla was deceased," Meehan said.

Mueller was Islamic State's only American woman hostage known to have died. The group has beheaded three other Americans, two Britons and two Japanese hostages - most of them aid workers or journalists - in recent months.

"No matter how long it takes, the United States will find and bring to justice the terrorists who are responsible for Kayla's captivity and death," Obama, who last year ordered American air strikes targeting Islamic State positions, said in a statement released by the White House.

"ISIL is a hateful and abhorrent terrorist group whose actions stand in stark contrast to the spirit of people like Kayla," Obama added. 

Obama offered his condolences to Mueller's parents Marsha and Carl, and her brother Eric, saying "Kayla represents what is best about America."

"Kayla's compassion and dedication to assisting those in need shows us that even amongst unconscionable evil, the essential decency of humanity can live on," Obama said.

U.S. officials said they had no evidence to support Islamic State claims that she was killed in a Jordanian air strike, adding the details surrounding her death remained unclear. Two U.S. government sources said that it appears most likely that she was killed in some kind of combat situation in which her captors were unable to keep her safe.

"It's unclear from the intelligence picture how she died," said one U.S. official, speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity.

Even after Islamic State Friday announced her death on Friday, the family had expressed hope that she was still alive.

"Kayla was a compassionate and devoted humanitarian. She dedicated the whole of her young life to helping those in need of freedom, justice and peace," they wrote in their statement on Tuesday.

The family also released a handwritten letter they said she wrote to them in the spring of 2014 while in captivity. In it, she states that she was "in a safe location, completely unharmed + healthy" and had been treated with "the utmost respect + kindness."

"I have been shown in darkness, light + have learned that even in prison, one can be free," the letter states.

"I am not breaking down + I will not give in no matter how long it takes," the letter states.

Mueller, a 2009 Northern Arizona University graduate, had worked for a Turkish aid organization on the Syrian border and previously volunteered for schools and aid organizations abroad including in the West Bank, Israel and India.

Her family's statement quoted from a letter they said she sent to her father on his birthday in 2011.

"I will always seek God. Some people find God in church. Some people find God in nature. Some people find God in love; I find God in suffering. I've known for some time what my life's work is, using my hands as tools to relieve suffering," the 2011 letter stated.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said that "ISIL, and ISIL alone, is the reason Kayla is gone."

"Like our friends in Jordan, our resolve is unshaken to defeat this vile and unspeakably ugly insult to the civilized world and to defeat terrorists whose actions - killing women, killing children, burning people alive - are an insult to the religion they falsely claim to represent," Kerry said.

Here is Kayla's letter in full:

Everyone, If you are receiving this letter it means I am still detained but my cell mates (starting from 11/2/2014) have been released. I have asked them to contact you + send you this letter. It’s hard to know what to say.

Please know that I am in a safe location, completely unharmed + healthy(put on weight in fact); I have been treated w/ the utmost respect + kindness. I wanted to write you all a well thought out letter (but I didn’t know if my cellmates would be leaving in the coming days or the coming months restricting my time but primarily) I could only but write the letter a paragraph at a time, just the thought of you all sends me into a fit of tears.

If you could say I have “suffered” at all throughout this whole experience it is only in knowing how much suffering I have put you all through; I will never ask you to forgive me as I do not deserve forgiveness. I remember mom always telling me that all in all in the end the only one you really have is God. I have come to a place in experience where, in every sense of the word, I have surrendered myself to our creator b/c literally there was no else….+ by God + by your prayers I have felt tenderly cradled in freefall.

I have been shown in darkness, light + have learned that even in prison, one can be free. I am grateful. I have come to see that there is good in every situation, sometimes we just have to look for it. I pray each each day that if nothing else, you have felt a certain closeness + surrender to God as well + have formed a bond of love + support amongst one another…

I miss you all as if it has been a decade of forced separation. I have had many a long hour to think, to think of all the things I will do w/ Lex, our first family camping trip, the first meeting @ the airport.I have had many hours to think how only in your absence have I finally @ 25 years old come to realize your place in my life.

The gift that is each one of you + the person I could + could not be if you were not a part of my life, my family, my support. I DO NOT want the negotiations for my release to be your duty, if there is any other option take it, even if it takes more time. This should never have become your burden. I have asked these women to support you; please seek their advice. If you have not done so already, [REDACTED] can contact [REDACTED] who may have a certain level of experience with these people.

None of us could have known it would be this long but know I am also fighting from my side in the ways I am able + I have a lot of fight left inside of me. I am not breaking down + I will not give in no matter how long it takes.

I wrote a song some months ago that says, “The part of me that pains the most also gets me out of bed, w/out your hope there would be nothing left…” aka -­ The thought of your pain is the source of my own, simultaneously the hope of our reunion is the source of my strength. Please be patient, give your pain to God. I know you would want me to remain strong. That is exactly what I am doing. Do not fear for me, continue to pray as will I + by God’s will we will be together soon.

 


 


 


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President Barack Obama on Tuesday confirmed the death of Kayla Jean Mueller, who had been held by the Islamic State in Syria. No matter how long it takes, the United States will find and bring to justice the terrorists who are responsible for Kayla's captivity and death, ...
kayla mueller, death, confirmed, obama, family
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2015-11-10
Tuesday, 10 February 2015 10:11 AM
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