SHAFAQNA (International Shia News Association)- A statement attributed to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) claimed an American female hostage was killed in a Jordanian airstrike on Friday on the outskirts of the northern Syrian city of Raqqa, the extremist group’s main stronghold.
The statement identified the woman as Kayla Jean Mueller and said she was killed during Muslim prayers — which usually take place around midday on Fridays — in airstrikes that targeted “the same location for more than an hour.”
No ISIS militants were killed in the airstrikes, the statement further claimed.
It published photos allegedly of the bombed site, showing a severely damaged brown coloured three-storey building — but no images of the woman.
American officials said they were looking into the report, and the White House said it did not have immediate comment. There was also no immediate comment from the Jordanian government.
The ISIS statement could not be independently verified. It appeared on a militant website commonly used by ISIS and was also distributed by ISIS-affiliated Twitter users.
Mueller, of Prescott, Arizona, had been working in Turkey assisting Syrian refugees, according to a 2013 article in The Daily Courier, her hometown newspaper. The 26-year-old told the paper that she was drawn to help with the situation in Syria.
“For as long as I live, I will not let this suffering be normal,” she said. “It’s important to stop and realize what we have, why we have it and how privileged we are. And from that place, start caring and get a lot done.”
According to the local paper, Mueller had been working with the humanitarian aid agency Support to Life, as well as a local NGO that helped female Syrian refugees develop skills.
A 2007 article about Mueller from the same local newspaper said she was a student at Northern Arizona University and was active in the Save Darfur Coalition.
On Sunday, President Barack Obama said the U.S. was “deploying all the assets that we can” to find Mueller.
“We are in very close contact with the family trying to keep them updated,” he said in an interview with NBC’s Today Show. “Obviously this is something that is heart-breaking for the family and we want to make sure we do anything we can to make sure that any American citizen is rescued from this situation.”
Her identity had not been disclosed out of fears for her safety.
If her death is confirmed, she would be the fourth American to die while in the captivity of the ISIS militants. Three other Americans, journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff and aid worker Peter Kassig were beheaded by the group.
Jordan, which is part of a U.S.-led coalition bombing ISIS targets in Syria, stepped up its attacks after ISIS announced it had killed a captive Jordanian pilot. The Syrian government said Thursday that dozens of Jordanian fighter jets had bombed ISIS training centres and weapons storage sites. It did not say where the attacks occurred.
There was no word from the Jordanian government on whether its planes had struck Raqqa on Friday. But activists who monitor the Syrian conflict from inside the country said U.S.-led coalition planes hit several targets on the edges and outskirts of Raqqa, in quick succession on Friday.