An American aid worker held by the Islamic State has reportedly been killed by Jordanian airstrikes within Syria. Reported By SITE, a statement released by the terrorist group on Friday said that Kayla Mueller was killed when a Jordanian aircraft struck the building in which she was located in the outskirts of the northern Syrian city of Raqqa.
The claim of her death has not been independently verified and no pictures of Mueller were released by the group. The statement appeared on a militant website commonly used by IS and was also distributed by IS-affiliated Twitter users. Jordan has not confirmed the bombing of the location in Raqqa, the group's capital, where IS claim she perished.
The Jordanian government said it was highly skeptical of the claim, and American officials said they were looking into the report.
Bernadette Meehan, the spokeswoman for President Barack Obama's National Security Council, said the White House has "not at this time seen any evidence that corroborates" the claim. "We are obviously deeply concerned by these reports," she added. White House spokesman Eric Schultz told reporters traveling with the president to Indiana Friday that the US does coordinate with the Jordanian air force as they fly airstrikes. He wouldn't say whether the US was aware of the hostage's location.
Jordanian government spokesman Mohammed al-Momani said Jordan was looking into the claim. "But as a first reaction, we think it's illogical and we are highly skeptical about it," he said. "How could they identify a Jordanian warplane... in the sky? What was the American lady doing in a weapons warehouse? It's part of their criminal propaganda. They have lied that our pilot is alive and tried to negotiate, claiming he is alive while they had killed him weeks before," al-Momani added.
Mueller, 26, is from Arizona and has been held by the terrorist group since August 2013. In the statement, IS released the hostage's phone number and personal information.
According to the Washington Post, the IS statement read: “The criminal Crusader coalition aircraft bombarded a site outside the city of ar-Raqqah today at noon while the people were performing the Friday prayer. The air assaults were continuous on the same location for more than an hour.” No Islamic State militants were killed in the airstrikes, the statement further claimed.
If her death is confirmed, she would be the fourth American to die while in the captivity of the Islamic State militants. Three other Americans, journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff and aid worker Peter Kassig were beheaded by the group. British aid worker Alan Henning was also killed by the Islamic State in October.
Jordan, which is part of a US-led coalition bombing Islamic State group targets in Syria, stepped up its attacks after IS announced it had killed a captive Jordanian pilot. The Syrian government said Thursday that dozens of Jordanian fighter jets had bombed Islamic State training centers and weapons storage sites. It did not say where the attacks occurred.
Mueller’s name had previously not been made public at the behest of the family; the FBI pushed for anonymity fearing disclosure may have placed the hostage in greater danger. In 2013, the Arizonan worked on the border of Syria and Turkey helping the humanitarian organisation Support to Life. She was captured near the city of Aleppo.
In an email to her family, militants demanded a ransom said to be several million euros, threatening to execute her should it not be paid. A US intelligence official told the Washington Post they were aware that IS might claim she had been killed in an airstrike by the coalition.
According to a 2013 article in The Daily Courier, her hometown newspaper. The 26-year-old told the paper that she was drawn to help with the situation in Syria. "For as long as I live, I will not let this suffering be normal," she said. "It's important to stop and realise what we have, why we have it and how privileged we are. And from that place, start caring and get a lot done."
According to the local paper, Mueller had been working with the humanitarian aid agency Support to Life, as well as a local NGO that helped female Syrian refugees develop skills. A 2007 article about Mueller from the same local newspaper said she was a student at Northern Arizona University and was active in the Save Darfur Coalition.
In Jordan, thousands gathered at central Amman's Grand Husseini Mosque at noon on Friday, praying for peace and denouncing the Islamic State's extremist interpretation of Islam.
The following pictures are taken from a Jordanian film that shows pilots preparing to bomb Islamic State targets.