A statement purportedly from the Islamic State claims a young American held hostage was killed in an airstrike on Friday.
According to the group, the 26-year-old humanitarian worker died as a result of Jordanian airstrikes just outside the Syrian city of Raqqa, the group's de facto capital in the country's east. ISIS did not provide proof of her death or evidence that a Jordanian attack was responsible.
The statement identified the woman as Kayla Jean Mueller of Arizona. It was long known that ISIS was holding a female American aid worker hostage, its last known remaining American hostage. Her identity had not been disclosed out of concern for her safety, but her name was widely reported after the statement was released on Friday.
The message, which could not be independently verified but appeared on a website affiliated with ISIS, said the woman was killed during noon prayers in airstrikes that targeted "the same location for more than an hour." The statement also claimed that none of ISIS' own fighters were killed.
The group also published photos it said were from the bombed site, showing a damaged three-story building.
The statement on Friday was the latest in a tit for tat between ISIS and Jordan, which has participated in coalition airstrikes against the militant group. On Tuesday, ISIS released a gruesome video that showed a Jordanian pilot, who had been captured when his F-16 crashed in Syria, being burned to death in a metal cage.
In retaliation, Jordan on Wednesday executed two al-Qaeda prisoners, one of whom ISIS had wanted freed in exchange for the pilot. It also launched a new round of airstrikes against the militants.
Regardless of Mueller's actual fate, it appeared that ISIS was eager to put the blame on Jordan. "Previous coalition intelligence estimates regarding hostage locations were by and large incorrect, so it remains possible that an airstrike could have killed the hostage," said Ben Decker, senior intelligence analyst for the Levantine Group, an independent Middle East intelligence group. "However, since the killing of the Jordanian pilot ISIS has increased its propaganda against the airstrikes and such a claim fits in perfectly with such a narrative."
American officials said they were looking into the report. The White House said it did not have immediate comment.
"I cannot confirm those reports in any way," Marie Harf, a U.S. State Department spokeswoman, said at a press conference. "Obviously people are looking into them."
The Combined Joint Task Force of Operation Inherent Resolve who are responsible for the strikes in Syria told Mashable that coalition forces conducted multiple airstrikes against several ISIs facilities in the Raqqa area on Friday but declined to comment further.
What we know about Kayla Jane Mueller
The White House has repeatedly said that the U.S. was working to secure the American aid worker's release, and confirmed on Jan. 24 that she was still under the control of ISIS militants.
Mueller has been held by the terrorist group for nearly two years, and was abducted Aug, 4 2013 while serving on a humanitarian mission in the region, according to ABC News citing a family spokesperson. She was returning from a Doctors Without Borders facility at the time of her abduction.
She had been working primarily with women and children in the region, delivering humanitarian aid to those displaced by the Syrian conflict.
ISIS had previously demanded $6.6 million for her release, but the American and British governments have refused to pay ransoms for their citizens. ISIS beheaded its three other American hostages, all men.
Some other Western hostages have been released in exchange for large payments from their governments. Two Japanese hostages were killed last month. Few Western hostages remain; one is John Cantlie, a British photojournalist.
On Friday, Nicolas Henin, a French journalist who was imprisoned with Mueller in Syria said she was one of the final of his former cellmates still being detained.
Kayla Mueller was among the very last of my former cellmates still detained.
I was full of hope she could have a way out.
— Nicolas Henin ﺡ (@nhenin75) February 6, 2015
Henin, who was released along with other French hostages in April 2014 said his former cellmates included James Foley, Steven Sotloff, David Haines and Alan Henning, who were all executed by the group.
Some information provided by The Associated Press.
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