WASHINGTON — Kayla Mueller, a 26-year-old American woman held by the Islamic State, has been confirmed dead, her parents and the Obama administration said Tuesday.
The White House said that Mueller’s family received a private message from her captors over the weekend. The information in the message was authenticated by the US intelligence community.
“We are heartbroken to share that we’ve received confirmation that Kayla Jean Mueller, has lost her life,” Carl and Marsha Mueller 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.”
Her family also released a note written by Mueller while in captivity, in which she said she had accepted her situation and was healthy, but looked forward to their reunion.
President Barack Obama said that Mueller, who was working with Syrian refugees, “epitomized all that is good in our world.”
“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,” the president said.
Secretary of State John Kerry praised Mueller for her humanitarian work.
“While ISIL exploited the crisis in Syria to rule by violence and massacre the innocent, human tragedy moved Kayla to do the opposite,” he said in a statement.
The Arizona native previously volunteered with organizations in India, the Palestinian territories and with the African Refugee Development Center in Israel.
On Friday, the Islamic State had claimed that Mueller died in a Jordanian airstrike.
Jordan, which has launched a barrage of strikes in recent days in retaliation for the gruesome killing of one of its pilots at the hands of the militants, disputed that report and the White House said at the time that it had seen no evidence to corroborate the Islamic State claims.
Mueller, is the fourth American to die while being held by Islamic State militants. Three other Americans — journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, and aid worker Peter Kassig — were beheaded by the group.
Journalist Austin Tice disappeared in August 2012 while covering Syria’s civil war. It’s not clear what entity is holding him, but it is not believed to be the Islamic State group or the Syrian government, his family has said.
Mueller was taken into captivity in August 2013 while leaving a hospital in Syria. Her identity was long kept secret out of fears for her safety.
Mueller had been working in Turkey assisting Syrian refugees, according to a 2013 article in The Daily Courier, her hometown newspaper. She 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 newspaper, Mueller had been working with the humanitarian aid agency Support to Life, as well as a local organization that helped female Syrian refugees develop skills.