Kayla Jean Mueller: Family of American hostage held by Isis says she is dead

Family statement follows claim by Isis that 26-year-old had been killed by Jordanian air strike

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The worst fears of the family of aid worker Kayla Mueller came to pass as it was revealed today that the 26-year-old woman being held hostage by Isis was dead.

A week after Isis militants claimed she had been killed in a Jordanian air-strike, the family said it had been confirmed she was indeed dead. It was not immediately clear when or how the young woman had lost her life.

 

“We are heartbroken to share that we've received confirmation that Kayla Jean Mueller, has lost her life,” Ms Mueller's parents said in a statement.

Bernadette Meehan, a spokesman for the Muellers, who live in Prescott, Arizona, said that over the weekend the family had received additional information from Isis. CBS said that information, sent by email, included a photograph of Ms Mueller's body which showed she had died "recently".

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“Once this information was authenticated by the intelligence community, they concluded that Kayla was deceased,” she said, according to the Associated Press.

Ms Mueller’s family also released a letter that the young woman had written to them from captivity. In it she said she had been obliged to write it one paragraph at a time, or else she would have broken down in tears.

She recalled favourite memories with her family and talked too, of how her strong Christian faith was helping her.

“None of us could have known it would be this long but know I am also fighting from my side in the ways I am able + I have a lot of fight inside of me,” she wrote.

She added:  “I am not breaking down + I will not give in no matter how long it takes.”

A White House spokesman, Josh Earnest, told reporters in Washington that the US intelligence community could not determine from the information sent to Ms Mueller's family, the precise timing or circumstances of the young woman's death. But she said analysts were in agreement that she had died.

Asked about the claims by Isis militants that Ms Mueller had been killed by a Jordanian air strike, he said information from the Pentagon had suggested there were no civilians present at the location of the Jordanian strike - an Isis munitions dump close to the northern Syrian city of Raqqa.

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Ms Mueller as a baby

President Barack Obama issued a statement offering his condolences to Ms Mueller's family.

“It is with profound sadness that we have learned of the death of Kayla Jean Mueller,” he said.

“On behalf of the American people, Michelle and I convey our deepest condolences to Kayla’s family – her parents, Marsha and Carl, and her brother Eric and his family – and all of those who loved Kayla dearly. At this time of unimaginable suffering, the country shares in their grief.”

Ms Mueller was captured in Syria in August 2013. Last week, Isis claimed she had been killed in a Jordanian airstrike in Syria.

At the time her family said they could not confirm Isis’s claims and continued to hope she was still alive.

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Kayla Mueller was abducted in 2013 while helping refugees of the Syrian civil war

Air strikes by Jordan and other members of a US-led coalition, had been stepped up after Isis released video footage of the killing of a Jordanian pilot, Lt Muath al-Kaseasbeh, whose plane was downed in December while on an operation against militant targets.

Jordan had been trying to arrange the exchange of Mr Kaseasbeh for several militants it was holding. But when Isis released footage of the burning to death of the pilot - whom it transpired had been killed in January and who was dead while Isis was claiming to negotiate his release - Jordan went ahead and executed two militants.

Ms Mueller was was seized while working with adults and children in Aleppo who had been displaced by Syria’s ongoing civil war. Last year, Isis demanded $6m (£3.9m) for her release. As part of the deal the group also demanded the release of convicted Pakistani scientist Aafia Siddiqui.

Ms Mueller has become the fourth American to die while being held by Isis militants. Three other Americans - journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, and aid worker Peter Kassig - were beheaded by the group.

Two British hostages, David Haines and Alan Henning, were also beheaded. Another British hostage, photojournalist John Cantlie, is still being held.

 

Follow Andrew Buncombe on Twitter: @AndrewBuncombe

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