The Failed Jordanian Aircraft Killed an American Female Hostage
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.
Allah made their pursuit disappointed and deterred their cunning, and no mujahid was injured in the bombardment, and all praise is due to Allah.
It was confirmed to us the killing of an American female hostage by fire of the shells dropped on the site, and she is Kayla Jean Mueller.
She had always been the unidentified, lone female American hostage of the Islamic State. For nearly 17 months, while her fellow American captives were beheaded one after another in serial executions posted onlne, Kayla Mueller’s name remained a closely guarded secret, whispered among reporters, government officials and hostage negotiators — all fearing that any public mention might imperil her life.
On Friday, the Islamic State confirmed her identity, announcing that Mueller, a 26-year-old aid worker from Prescott, Ariz., had been killed in the falling rubble of a building in northern Syria that it said had been struck by bombs from a Jordanian warplane.
But the group’s use of Mueller’s name for the first time prompted her family and its advisers to confirm her prolonged captivity in a statement and changed the calculus about what could be reported about her life. It threw a spotlight on a hostage ordeal that befell an eager and deeply idealistic young woman, who had ventured into one of the most dangerous parts of Syria — apparently without the backing of an aid organization, according to interviews with advisers to the family and employees of Doctors Without Borders, the international medical charity that hosted Mueller during her brief stay in one of Syria’s ravaged cities.
Mueller, who was born in 1988, had a deep desire to help those less fortunate. After graduating from Northern Arizona University, she worked for aid organizations in India and Israel and in the occupied Palestinian territories, according to statement from her family. In 2012, she was drawn to what would soon become the world’s top humanitarian crisis, the Syrian civil war. She moved to Turkey, where many Syrians were seeking refuge, and she settled in a border town assisting Syrian families for the Danish Refugee Council and an aid group called Support to Life. “The common thread of Kayla’s life has been her quiet leadership and strong desire to serve others,” her family said in the statement.
In an interview with The Daily Courier in Arizona, Ms. Mueller described how fulfilled she felt by her work with refugees, which included leading art classes for displaced Syrian children.
“For as long as I live, I will not let this suffering be normal,” she said.
Initially based in southern Turkey, where she had worked for at least two aid organizations assisting Syrian refugees, Mueller appears to have driven into the northern Syrian city of Aleppo on Aug. 3, 2013, alongside a man who has been alternatively described as her Syrian friend or colleague, and by others as either her boyfriend or her fiancé. He had been invited to travel to the city to help fix the Internet connection for a compound run by the Spanish chapter of Doctors Without Borders, known in Spanish as Médicos Sin Fronteras (MSF). Employees of the charity said they were surprised when the young Syrian man arrived with Mueller.
“On Aug. 3, 2013, a technician sent by a company contracted by MSF arrived at one of the organization’s structures in Aleppo, Syria, to perform repairs. Unbeknown to the MSF team, Kayla, a friend of the technician’s, was accompanying him,” said the group’s spokesman, Tim Shenk, in a statement.
It took longer than expected to finish the repair work, and as night approached, MSF agreed to let the two stay overnight, out of concern for their safety, said Mr. Shenk. The next day the charity arranged to transport them to an Aleppo bus stop, where they planned to catch a bus back to Turkey.
They never made it. They were abducted on the road, the statement said.
Although Mueller had moved to Turkey in December 2012 to work with two organizations helping refugees — including the Danish Refugee Council — she was not employed by either of those groups when she entered Syria at a time when numerous foreigners already had been kidnapped inside the country, said the Mueller family advisers. What she was doing in Aleppo — beyond accompanying her Syrian companion — remains unclear.
The family advisers said there was not any indication that she had been working with an aid group when she went to Aleppo. She had no professional connection to the MSF compound, said Carlos Francisco Cabello, the current head of the Spanish division of Doctors Without Borders’ Syria mission.
“She appeared there with the external technician in a war zone. We didn’t know that she was coming, or otherwise we would not allow her to visit,” Cabello said, speaking by telephone from Turkey. “U.S. and U.K. citizens at that moment, and even now, were not considered for the Syrian mission for MSF for obvious security reasons,” he said.
“She was never employed by MSF-Spain in Syria. This must be clear,” he said, adding, “Aleppo at that time and now is a war zone.”
Mueller’s companion, who was released after several months, declined to be interviewed.
“There is a lot of murkiness about what she was doing there. That’s been the problem — no one really knows,” said one adviser of the Muellers.
In the statement released Friday, the family said that it had received the first message from Mueller’s captors in May 2014 — nine months after her disappearance. Islamic State provided initial proof that she was alive, the family said.
Then on July 12, 2014, Islamic State announced that it would kill her within 30 days unless the family provided a ransom of 5 million euros ($5.6 million), or exchanged her for Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani scientist educated in America who was convicted of trying to kill American soldiers and FBI agents in Afghanistan in 2008. She is serving a sentence in a Texas jail, according to an email explaining the demands forwarded to The New York Times by an acquaintance of the Muellers. When the deadline passed, nothing happened, prompting the family to hope that Mueller might be spared.
During those 30 days, her parents shared their ordeal only with the tight-knit group of advisers and with parents of other American hostages held by the Islamic State. Together the anxious parents traveled to Washington to meet Obama administration officials to push for the release of their children. That was shortly before the United States began airstrikes against the Islamic State in concert with European and Arab allies. Soon after, in August, the Islamic State posted the first of its decapitation videos, starting with the beheading of the American James Foley, and then in quick succession the fellow Americans Steven Sotloff and Peter Kassig.
A group of concerned advisers helping the Muellers dispatched negotiators to Turkey, Qatar, Lebanon and Iraq in an effort to find a way to contact the Islamic State to negotiate Mueller’s release. They spent many hours parsing messages by the Islamic State, trying to answer the crucial question: Would the group, which had shown no qualms about killing American male hostages, go so far as to behead a 26-year-old woman?
They feared the worst after the Islamic State released a video on Tuesday showing the immolation of a captured Jordanian pilot, a killing that shocked the world and particularly infuriated Jordan. In retaliation, the Jordanians then executed two prisoners convicted of terrorism, including an Al-Qaeda-linked woman who had tried to blow up a hotel in Amman.
The Jordanians then began their own extensive bombings of Islamic State targets in Syria.
It was one of those attacks, the Islamic State said in its message Friday, that killed Mueller.
Both the Jordanian and American governments said there was no proof, even as they rushed to deplore her possible death. Top Jordanian officials said the announcement was cynical propaganda.
In an interview, a senior Jordanian official expressed skepticism about the Islamic State’s claim and said that the building pictured in the image distributed by the group was a “weapons warehouse.”
The official, Mohammad al-Momani, Jordan’s media affairs minister, did not indicate how he knew that or say whether the building had been targeted by the Jordanian military or other members of the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq and Syria.
Instead, Momani said that the latest Islamic State claim was “part of their media spinning/PR campaign, and it’s not the first time they do this.” The militants, he said, “are constantly trying to drive a wedge in the coalition [and] playing with public opinion. We need to be careful not to fall into this trap.”
He questioned how the Islamic State would have been able to identify any warplanes as Jordanian at such an altitude.
Some have also speculated that the Islamic State might have killed Mueller beforehand and taken the opportunity to blame the Jordanian bombs in her death.
A U.S. intelligence official said authorities were mindful of the possibility that the Islamic State might claim that a hostage had been killed in an airstrike by the U.S.-led coalition. The official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter, said there were no negotiations with the Islamic State.
Although Arab nations, including Jordan, have participated in what have been about 1,000 coalition airstrikes in Syria since September, the vast majority of them have been carried out by the United States.
None of the strikes announced by Central Command in recent days have indicated targets near Raqqa, a city in north-central Syria where the coalition has been reluctant to drop bombs because of the risk of civilian casualties.
A Central Command spokesman said in a statement that officials would be “unable to confirm details on any of today’s airstrikes” until Saturday.
Mueller was believed to have been held with other Islamic State hostages. Nicolas Henin, a French journalist who was freed in April, said in a message on Twitter on Friday that Mueller was among the last of his former cellmates still detained.
In early July, U.S. Special Operations forces launched a rescue attempt to save Western hostages thought to be held near Raqqa. The commandos, however, found no hostages at the site of the raid.
Based on evidence collected at the site, including strands of hair believed to be from Mueller, U.S. intelligence concluded that American captives had been there but had been moved a day to a week before the raid, according to a U.S. official familiar with the operation.
Mueller’s parents issued a statement Friday evening expressing hope that she may still be alive and urging her captors to contact them privately.
“You told us that you treated Kayla as your guest, as your guest her safety and wellbeing remains your responsibility,” Carl and Marsha Mueller said in the statement.
The Obama administration, whose policy has been not to negotiate or agree to concessions with hostage-takers, is continuing an internal review, ordered by President Obama, of how the United States deals with hostage crises. Speaking at the Brookings Institution on Friday, Rice said that that refusal is not part of the review and will not be changed.
Instead, she said, officials are looking at “how we can support and be more responsible to the needs of the families” enduring a hostage taking and how “within the confines of the non-concessions policy, we might do better.”