One wonders who was the more surprised Tuesday: the White House staff or the American people, upon being told there is at least one more U.S. national and possibly more being held hostage in Syria.
In either case, it makes no difference to humanitarian aide worker Kayla Mueller, who was being held captive by Daesh, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). She was officially confirmed dead by White House officials Tuesday night.
Daesh claimed last Friday that Mueller died in a Jordanian air strike targeting the group in Raqqa, Syria. Jordan has intensified its attacks on the terror group following its barbaric execution of a Jordanian pilot captured after his fighter jet crashed in December 2014 in northeastern Syria. The group released an execution video of the pilot being burned alive in a metal cage earlier this month, but said the victim had been killed on January 3, about 10 days after he was captured.
The terrorist group sent photos of Mueller’s dead body to her family to confirm her death, a detail not immediately released when her death was first confirmed to media. According to a New York Times report published Wednesday, the Mueller family contacted Daesh separately in order to obtain the proof of their daughter’s death. In return they received at least three photos: One showed her wrapped in a Muslim funeral shroud and in two others she was alive, wearing a hijab and with her face partly covered. In all three photos, her face was reportedly covered in bruises.
The circumstances of Mueller’s death have remained unclear; high-ranking sources within the U.S. government have told media she could have died in a building next to a weapons storage facility targeted in an air strike. Or not.
However, intelligence officials have said that Daesh treats its female hostages differently, often forcing them to convert to Islam and then “marrying” them off to male commanders of the terrorist group.
Three male Americans have also died in the hands of Daesh: two journalists and another humanitarian aide worker trying to help Syrians caught in the crossfire of the savage civil war ripping apart the country. All three were beheaded by the group.
According to a report by Haaretz, Mueller volunteered for the International Solidarity Movement, living and working with Arabs in the Palestinian Authority. In a blog post about her stay in Israel and the PA, she posted the following:
“Do not be fooled, resistance lives… Oppression wails from the soldiers radio and floats through tear gas clouds in the air … But resistance is nestled in the cracks in the wall, resistance flows from the minaret 5 times a day and resistance sits quietly in jail knowing its time will come again. Resistance lives in the grieving mother’s wails and resistance lives in the anger at the lies broadcasted across the globe. Though it is sometimes hard to see and even harder sometimes to harbor, resistance lives. Do not be fooled, resistance lives.”
Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, White House press secretary Josh Earnest refused to identify the newly-revealed American captive being held in Syria. Nor would he say which group kidnapped the hostage, or when the victim was seized.
“We have avoided discussing the individual cases of Americans who have been held hostage, but we are aware of other American hostages being held in the region,” Earnest said, according to Reuters.
“I’m not going to get into the specific discussions of the cases of individuals who are being held hostage, principally because we don’t believe that it’s in their best interests for me to discuss them publicly,” Earnest told reporters, according to Reuters. “But there have been public reports of at least one other American hostage being held in Syria,” he said.
The family of Austin Tice, a journalist who disappeared in Damascus in August 2012, held a news conference in Washington last week about his case.