ISIL hostage Kayla Mueller confirmed dead by US, family

WASHINGTON - Kayla Jean Mueller, an American aid worker held hostage by ISIL in Syria has died in captivity, her family and the Obama administration confirmed Tuesday.

"We are heartbroken to share that we've received confirmation that Kayla Jean Mueller, has lost her life," her parents, Carl and Marsha, and brother Eric, said in a statement. “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.”

President Barack Obama said Mueller, 26, who was providing aid to the victims of the Syrian civil war when she was abducted in August 2013, “represents what is best about America, and expressed her deep pride in the freedoms that we Americans enjoy, and that so many others strive for around the world.” 

“Kayla Mueller used these freedoms she so cherished to improve the lives of others. In how she lived her life, she epitomized all that is good in our world,” the American president said in a statement.

Her death marks the killing of the fourth American hostage held by ISIL. Two American journalists – James Foley and Steven Sotloff – and aid worker Peter Kassig were previously beheaded by ISIL.

Fears for Mueller’s safety were raised after ISIL said last Friday that the aid worker had been killed in a Jordanian air strike that targeted a building held by the militants near their stronghold of Raqqa, Syria.

The Hashemite Kingdom ramped up its aerial sorties against the militants after a video was released on the Internet depicting the brutal execution of one of its pilots who was captured in December 2014.

Despite confirmation from her parents and U.S. officials, the details surrounding Mueller’s death were not immediately clear.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest said that the there is no evidence of civilians in the area targeted by the Jordanian airstrike, which was carried out in coordination with the U.S., laying the blame squarely with ISIL for her death.  

“This, after all, is the organization that was holding her against her will. That means they are responsible for her safety and her well-being. And they are, therefore, responsible for her death,” he told reporters.

He said that Obama spoke with Mueller’s family over the last several days, most recently to offer his condolences, but did not publicly announce Mueller’s death “to abide by the wishes of the family and allow them to make the first statement.”

“While ISIL exploited the crisis in Syria to rule by violence and massacre the innocent, human tragedy moved Kayla to do the opposite,” John Kerry, America’s top diplomat said in a statement. 

Refuting potential claims that Jordan could be to blame for Mueller’s death, Kerry added, “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,” he said.

As the U.S. and it coalition partners continue their offensive against ISIL in Syria and Iraq, Earnest said that there is at least one other U.S. hostage being held in Syria. But he declined to identify the responsible party or parties.

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