U.S. officials confirmed today that Kayla Jean Mueller, a 26-year-old humanitarian aid worker from Prescott, Ariz., has been killed by ISIS.
The Mueller family reportedly received proof of death from her captors, days after ISIS claimed she had been killed in a Jordanian airstrike.
“We are heartbroken to share that we’ve received confirmation that Kayla Jean Mueller, has lost her life,” Mueller’s parents, Carl and Marsha, and brother Eric said in a statement. “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 Obama said he learned of Mueller’s death with “profound sadness.”
Mueller was kidnapped in August 2013 while leaving a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Aleppo, Syria. Doctors Without Borders said Mueller was not employed by the group but was accompanying a technician who had been contracted to do repairs on one of their facilities.
“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,” Obama said in a statement.
“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.”
He quoted Mueller as saying, “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,” the president said. “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.”
Obama added that ISIS 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,” he said.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said “the world is united in condemning ISIL’s continued murder and imprisonment of innocents.”
The Mueller family released the last letter they got from Kayla, penned in captivity in Spring 2014.
“I have come to a place in experience where, in every sense of the word, I have surrendered myself to our creator b/c literally there was no else… + by God + by your prayers I have felt tenderly cradled in freefall. I have been shown in darkness, light + have learned that even in prison, one can be free,” Kayla wrote in part. “I am grateful. I have come to see that there is good in every situation, sometimes we just have to look for it.”
“I DO NOT want the negotiations for my release to be your duty, if there is any other option take it, even if it takes more time,” she adds. “This should never have become your burden… Please be patient, give your pain to God. I know you would want me to remain strong. That is exactly what I am doing. Do not fear for me, continue to pray as will I + by God’s will we will be together soon.”