U.S., Jordan Officials Say There Is No Proof Female U.S. Hostage Was Killed In Airstrike


Kayla Mueller is shown after speaking to a group in Prescott, Ariz., in 2007.
(Photo: Jo. L. Keener/The Daily Courier/AP)

The Islamic State claimed Friday —- without providing any video or photographic evidence — that a female American hostage was killed during an airstrike by Jordanian jets in Syria. Officials in Washington and Jordan were quick to say they had not seen any evidence to support the claims.

SITE Intelligence Group, a U.S.-based group that monitors terrorist activity online, said the claim was made in a tweet from an ISIL-linked group. The tweet also carried a photo of the alleged bombing site.

“The failed Jordanian aircraft killed an American female hostage,” said the message. “No mujahid (fighter) was injured in the bombardment, and all praise is due to Allah.”

The message identified the woman as 26-year-old American aid worker Kayla Jean Mueller of Prescott, Ariz., who was taken captive in August 2013. There was no independent confirmation that a hostage was killed.

In a statement, Mueller’s family called on the media to “cautiously report” on her background and work and “limit speculation on her situation and consider the implications for her security before publishing.”

National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan said the White House is “deeply concerned” by the reports but has not seen evidence to support the claims. The U.S. Central Command also said it hadn’t seen evidence.

On Sunday, President Obama told NBC’s Today Show that the U.S. was “deploying all the assets” to find her.

Jordan’s military has a high level of confidence that the hostage was not killed by a Jordanian airstrike, a Jordanian government official told USA TODAY. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the official is not authorized to speak publicly on the issue, did not elaborate on how the military drew that conclusion.

The official also said militants had been deceptive in the past when they claimed Jordanian pilot Lt. Muath al-Kaseasbeh was still alive even though he had been killed nearly a month earlier.

“They tried to cause problems internally in Jordan and haven’t succeeded,” Jordanian Interior Minister Hussein Majali said, according to CNN. “They are now trying to drive a wedge between the coalition with this latest low PR stunt.”

Mueller’s identity had not been previously released by American officials or her family out of fear for her safety. She is the last known remaining American hostage held by the group. Last year, the Islamic State beheaded three Americans: journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff and aid worker Peter Kassig.

Mueller had been working in Turkey assisting Syrian refugees when she was abducted by ISIL in the Syrian city of Aleppo while leaving a Spanish “Doctors without Borders” hospital, her family said. Several others were reported kidnapped at the same time but released later.

ISIL contacted her family last May and provided proof that she was still alive.

“Kayla has devoted her career to helping those in need in countries around the world,” the Mueller family’s statement said. “Kayla found this work heartbreaking but compelling; she is extremely devoted to the people of Syria.”

Mueller, who also led student efforts to help the people of Darfur, Sudan, went overseas after she graduated from Northern Arizona University, working with humanitarian aid groups in northern India, Israel and Palestine, her family said. In 2011, she came back to Arizona and worked at an HIV/AIDS clinic during the day and volunteered at a women’s shelter at night.

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Doug Stanglin

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