A STATEMENT attributed to Islamic State (IS) extremists has claimed an American woman it was holding hostage was killed yesterday, allegedly in a Jordanian airstrike on the militants’ Raqqa stronghold in northern Syria.
The woman was identified as Kayla Jean Mueller, an American who went to Syria as an aid worker, but there was no independent verification of the claim and the United States said it had no evidence of her death.
Mueller, 26, from Prescott, Arizona, is the only known remaining US hostage held by the IS terrorists.
Journalist Austin Tice, from Houston, Texas, disappeared in August 2012 while covering Syria’s civil war. It’s not clear what group is holding him, but it is not believed to be IS or the Syrian government, his family has said.
If Ms Mueller’s death is confirmed, she would be the fourth American to die while being held captive by IS militants. Three other Americans – journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff and aid worker Peter Kassig – have been beheaded by the group.
The announcement also marked the second time this week that IS has announced the death of one of the hostages it holds.
IS released a video earlier this week showing a captive Jordanian pilot being burned to death in a cage in gruesome images that sparked outrage in Jordan and across the Middle East.
Yesterday’s statement, which appeared on a militant website commonly used by IS and also distributed by IS-affiliated Twitter users, said Ms Mueller was killed during Friday prayers – which usually take place around midday – in airstrikes that targeted “the same location for more than an hour”.
It published photos allegedly of the bombed site, showing a severely damaged brown-coloured three-storey building – but offered no proof or images of Ms Mueller.
No IS militants were killed in the airstrikes, the statement further claimed, raising questions of whether Ms Mueller was alone in the building and whether she was indeed killed in the strikes.
The Jordanian government said it was highly sceptical of the claim, describing it as a possible propaganda stunt, and American officials said they were looking into the report.
Bernadette Meehan, a spokeswoman for president Barack Obama’s National Security Council, said the White House has “not at this time seen any evidence that corroborates” the claim.
“We are obviously deeply concerned by these reports,” she added.
White House spokesman Eric Schultz told reporters travelling with the president to Indiana yesterday that the US does co-ordinate with the Jordanian airforce as its warplanes fly airstrikes. He would not say whether the US was aware of the hostage’s location.
The IS statement could not be independently verified but it appeared on a militant website commonly used by the group.
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