The family of Kayla Mueller announced that they received both written and visual confirmation of their daughter’s death. Carl and Marsha Mueller of Prescott, Arizona, said that they received the private message over the weekend from her captors. ISIS and the parents had been in regular communication. United States intelligence backed up the authenticity of the claim. The Muellers praised their daughter for her humanitarian work and how she selflessly devoted her life fighting for those who needed justice and freedom.
President Obama echoed their sentiment, saying that she “epitomized all that is good in our world.” He also promised to bring to justice those responsible for her death. Although in captivity, she was able to secret out letters to her parents. In them, she claimed that she was completely unharmed and healthy in a safe place. She also expressed resolve, stating that she would not give in no matter what and that although imprisoned, she felt free. Republican John McCain, himself a former prisoner of war from Arizona, stated that everyone in his home state and world grieves over the death of the young Arizonian.
Things seemed relatively civil between the Mueller family and their daughter’s captors. The parents promised to keep Kayla’s name out of the media while the kidnappers promised to treat her as a guest. ISIS continued that semblance of courtesy by personally contacting the Muellers, letting them know about their daughter’s demise.
Four other Americans held captive by ISIS did not fare as well. Journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, along with aid worker Peter Kassig were all decapitated by the terrorist group. Another detainee, Daniel Raye Ottosen managed to escape and smuggle out letters from the hostages to their parents. It is unclear if that is the letter referenced by Mueller’s parents. The United States was prepared to undertake a rescue mission to free the 26-year old aid worker, but her parents thought that plan would be too risky. The preferred to negotiate for her release.
Mueller’s humanitarian worked started in high school where she earned the Gold Presidential award for volunteerism. In college, her focus was on the genocide in Darfur, Africa. This gained the attention of the local newspaper, who spotlighted her as she protested in the rain. She worked at an HIV/AIDS shelter in Phoenix during a brief return home in 2011. In Paris, she worked as an au pair, learning the language she would need for her travels to Africa. In 2013, she found herself on Turkey’s border. Working with the Danes and the Support for Life aid group put Mueller in touch with displaced Syrians. Mueller, along with her Syrian boyfriend, were both captured after leaving a Spanish Doctors Without Borders Hospital. The militant group released her boyfriend days later. He pleaded for her release, but was unsuccessful.
ISIS captors claim that Mueller was killed in a collapsed building from Jordan’s military airstrikes. The Jordanian government denied the claim and her family held out hope that she was alive. It was only then that the family made her name public. Her parents asked the captors if they would contact them privately to confirm or deny the rumors. They did so today.
By Danielle Branch
Photo by Ian Muir – Flickr
Photo by Richard Roche – Flickr