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ISIS Claims Hostage American Woman Killed In Jordanian Airstrike


The self-proclaimed Islamic State claims an American hostage named Kayla Mueller was killed today. In a statement, the militants say she was hit in a Jordanian airstrike. However, the Obama administration says the group has not yet produced any evidence that she's dead.

NPR's Martin Kaste reports on how the young woman came to be kidnapped in Syria.

MARTIN KASTE, BYLINE: Twenty-six-year-old Kayla Mueller was raised in Prescott, Ariz., where she piled up awards for volunteerism during high school. After college, she traveled the world, working for aid groups in India and the Middle East. And in 2012, she went to the Turkish-Syrian border to work with war refugees.

But after that, things get a little fuzzy. In August of 2013, she was captured inside Syria, in Aleppo, as she was leaving a hospital run by the Spanish arm of Doctors Without Borders. It's not clear why she was at that hospital. Doctors Without Borders says she was not one of their employees. Her official employment status, or lack of one, may have mattered a lot because three other hostages who were captured with her were eventually freed, but not Mueller. Since then, her parents, Marsha and Carl Mueller, have been trying to get her released. Last year, they made this video.


MARSHA MUELLER: We have been working with the U.S. authorities. We are in almost daily contact with the FBI. We are also talking with the State Department and President Obama. Everyone is trying to secure Kayla's release, but it is not working.

KASTE: They said they'd received proof of life, and they said released hostages said they'd seen Kayla as recently as October. The Muellers made the video to distribute quietly to anyone who might help them raise the 5 million euro ransom demanded by ISIS.


CARL MUELLER: We know that ISIS has released other Western hostages once they have paid the ransom. We are a family of humble means and have no way of paying the more than $6 million ourselves. That is why we need your help.

KASTE: And the Muellers said they would assume the legal responsibility for sending a ransom to ISIS.


M. MUELLER: As any parent will tell you, we will do anything to save the life of our child.

KASTE: The family is not speaking to the media today, but a family representative has confirmed that their daughter has been held hostage for the last year and a half. The Muellers had worked hard to keep Kayla's name out of the media because ISIS said publicity would lead to her death. Major news organizations, including NPR, honored that request, even though her name was circulating on the Internet. Now, in light of the claim from ISIS, Kayla Mueller's name is out. Martin Kaste, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Martin Kaste is a correspondent on NPR's National Desk. He covers law enforcement and privacy. He has been focused on police and use of force since before the 2014 protests in Ferguson, and that coverage led to the creation of NPR's Criminal Justice Collaborative.