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Family confirms death of Az woman held hostage by ISIS

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Family confirms death of Az woman held hostage by ISIS

  • Mueller in an undated photo released by her family.
    Mueller in an undated photo released by her family.

The family of Kayla Mueller, the Prescott, Ariz., woman held in Syria, confirmed her death in a statement Tuesday. Last week, the Islamic State claimed Mueller had been killed in a Jordanian airstrike against the group in Syria. 

"We are heartbroken to share that we’ve received confirmation that Kayla Jean Mueller, has lost her life," Mueller's family said. "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 expressed "deepest condolences."

"No matter how long it takes, the United States will find and bring to justice the terrorists who are responsible for Kayla’s captivity and death," he said Tuesday, calling ISIS a "hateful and abhorrent terrorist group."

"Our hearts are breaking for our only daughter, but we will continue on in peace, dignity, and love for her," Mueller's parents said in a statement.

A message from the Islamic State published on the group's Twitter account on Friday claimed that Mueller, a 26-year-old aid worker, was killed when Jordanian airplanes bombed a building near the city of ar-Raqqah in Syria that day, the New York Times reported.

The message was picked up by the SITE Intelligence Group, which tracks and analyzes terrorist messages, and claims that Mueller was buried in rubble when the building was hit.

Mueller was kidnapped in August 2013 near Aleppo, Syria, after she left a hospital run by the Spanish Doctors Without Borders, said U.S. Sen. John McCain in a statement Friday afternoon.

Mueller, he said, had been working along the Turkish-Syrian border for months with refugees from the Syrian civil war. 

Mueller's death was initially unconfirmed.

Friday, The Washington Post reported that national security adviser Susan E. Rice said that U.S. officials could not corroborate the claim that Mueller had been killed.

Jordan's media affairs minister said that the message could be a PR stunt, intended to drive a wedge between the U.S. and Jordan, which began a series of strikes against Islamic State positions last week after the group burned alive a Jordanian pilot taken hostage by the group, and posted a video of the murder online.

"The thoughts and prayers of the people of Arizona, America, and the civilized world are with the Mueller family at this terrible hour," said U.S. Sen. John McCain in a statement released by his office Tuesday.

"Kayla devoted her young life to helping people in need around the world, to healing the sick and bringing light to some of the darkest and most desperate places on Earth," McCain said. "When asked what drove her mission, Kayla said, ‘I find God in the suffering eyes reflected in mine, if this is how you are revealed to me, this is how I will forever seek you.’ Kayla’s remarkable legacy of service will never be forgotten, even by so many who never had the honor of meeting her."

Gov. Doug Ducey ordered that flags at state offices be flown at half-staff through sunset Wednesday in honor of Mueller, saying, "Tthe hearts of all Arizonans are heavy today, and our thoughts and prayers continue to be with her family. And while it may be of small comfort for such an unknowable loss, I pray that Kayla Mueller's parents find solace in knowing that this state and nation will forever remember their daughter, and the lasting impression she left. She did more good in her 26 years than many do in a lifetime. We should honor her by striving every day to follow her noble example."

"My heart breaks for Kayla, her family and friends at the news of her death," said U.S. Rep. Raul Grijalva. "Kayla dedicated her life to helping people in need, and her commitment to ending suffering stands in stark contrast to those who would take her from her loved ones so senselessly. News of her passing is a loss for every Arizonan, every American, and everyone the world over who – like Kayla – seeks an end to human suffering."

"This tragedy further emphasizes that the reign of terror brought by ISIS must be stopped, once and for all," Grijalva said. "While the United States must support efforts to end the madness, only a coordinated response led and fully endorsed by Arab nations in the region will stop the bloodshed. Kayla placed herself in harm’s way to alleviate suffering where it was happening most. Her death underscores the profound need for Arab nations to unite and fight for the peace she gave her life to help bring to their region."

"Today, the news of Kayla Mueller’s death is felt around the world, but there is nowhere it cuts deeper than here at home in Arizona," said U.S. Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick. "Kayla grew up here, played in our playgrounds, studied at our schools, and volunteered in our community. But she didn’t stay here – she was compelled by compassion to work in faraway places devastated by war and violence. Kayla’s short life is proof that one dedicated soul can touch a thousand others. On this difficult day and in the days to come, let us all keep Kayla’s family in our prayers and her legacy in our hearts."

"Kayla was a light in this world when so often there was only darkness," said U.S. Rep. Martha McSally. "With her premature and tragic death, the world misses out on a lifetime of compassion and service that she no doubt would have given. As we remember the incredible person she was, we also should resolve to carry on her legacy and be a light in the darkness for those suffering or in need."

Mueller's family released the text of a note penned by Mueller while she was held by ISIS.
 "I have been shown in darkness, light + have learned that even in prison, one can be free. I am grateful. I have come to see that there is good in every situation, sometimes we just have to look for it," she wrote.

Obama's statement

It is with profound sadness that we have learned of the death of Kayla Jean Mueller.  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.

Kayla dedicated her life to helping others in need at home and around the world. In Prescott, Arizona, she volunteered at a women’s shelter and worked at an HIV/AIDS clinic. She worked with humanitarian organizations in India, Israel, and the Palestinian territories, compelled by her desire to serve others.  Eventually, her path took her to Turkey, where she helped provide comfort and support to Syrian refugees forced to flee their homes during the war. Kayla’s compassion and dedication to assisting those in need shows us that even amongst unconscionable evil, the essential decency of humanity can live on.

Kayla 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. She said:  “Here we are.  Free to speak out without fear of being killed, blessed to be protected by the same law we are subjected to, free to see our families as we please, free to cross borders and free to disagree. We have many people to thank for these freedoms and I see it as an injustice not to use them to their fullest.”

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. She has been taken from us, but her legacy endures, inspiring all those who fight, each in their own way, for what is just and what is decent. No matter how long it takes, the United States will find and bring to justice the terrorists who are responsible for Kayla’s captivity and death.

ISIL is a hateful and abhorrent terrorist group whose actions stand in stark contrast to the spirit of people like Kayla. On this day, we take comfort in the fact that the future belongs not to those who destroy, but rather to the irrepressible force of human goodness that Kayla Mueller shall forever represent.

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