A statement from ISIS released on Friday claims that an American female hostage had been killed in a Jordanian airstrike over the ISIS stronghold of Raqqa, Syria. The last American hostage believed to be held by the group is a 26-year-old woman from Arizona, Kayla Mueller.
Mueller was working with an organization in Turkey called Support to Life when she vanished in August of 2013 after leaving a children’s hospital run by Doctors Without Borders in the Syrian city of Aleppo. Part of what she did was play and create art with children whose lives had been torn apart by the violent advance of ISIS.
During Mueller’s long captivity, documented in a “proof of life” video sent to her colleagues, she had not been referred to by name in the media by U.S. officials, at least not on purpose. After the newest ISIS statement included her name and address, her family released a message describing how activism in her college years and a dedication to others had led her to travel to the war-ravaged region to help refugee children.
After graduating in 2011, she lived and worked with humanitarian aid groups in northern India, Israel and the Palestinian territories, her family said.
She then returned home to Arizona and worked for one year at an HIV/AIDS clinic while volunteering at a women’s shelter at night.
In December 2011, she travelled to France to become an au pair so she could learn French in preparation for work in Africa. It was there in 2012 that she decided to go to Syria, her family said.
“The suffering of the Syrian refugees drew Kayla to the Turkish/Syrian border… to assist families who had been forced to flee their homes,” said her family in a statement.
The New York Times quotes a spokeswoman for the National Security Council as denying they have “any evidence that corroborates [the ISIS] claim” of Mueller’s death, but that intelligence officials will continue to investigate.