Counterterrorism officials say that American hostage Kayla Mueller was repeatedly raped by ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi before her death, ABC News reports.
The family of Mueller, a 26-year-old humanitarian aid worker from Prescott, Ariz., received proof from ISIS in February that she had been killed; ISIS says in a Jordanian airstrike, but the U.S. disputes this without noting a cause of death. She 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.
From ABC today:
Mueller’s family confirmed to ABC News that government officials have told them that their daughter, who would have turned 27 today, was the victim of repeated sexual assaults by al-Baghdadi.
“We were told Kayla was tortured, that she was the property of al-Baghdadi. We were told that in June by the government,” Kayla’s parents, Carl and Marsha Mueller, told ABC News today.
…The top terror leader later regularly visited the compound to meet with [Tunisian Abu] Sayyaf and to repeatedly sexually assault Mueller, officials said.
…The information about al-Baghdadi’s extraordinary direct role in the captivity and physical abuse of Kayla Mueller was drawn from, among many sources, the U.S. debriefings of at least least two Yezedi teenage girls, ages 16 and 18, held as sex slaves in the Sayyaf compound as well as from the interrogation of Abu Sayyaf’s wife Umm Sayyaf, who was captured in the U.S. raid, the officials told ABC News.
Officials stressed that all of what transpired with many girls kept as sex slaves inside the Sayyaf household hasn’t been reconstructed completely and is still is in the process of being verified, though al-Baghdadi’s role in abusing Mueller is certain.
Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) noted of the report on CNN, “If that is all true it certainly shows we have gaps in intelligence… but I wouldn’t necessarily blame it on the intelligence community, it’s because of a reduction of our presence.”
That lack of people on the ground to infiltrate the region contributed to not knowing was happening to Mueller sooner, he said.
The Mueller family last heard from Kayla in a Spring 2014 letter.
“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.”
“…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.”