A 26-year-old US woman held by “Islamic State” militants has been confirmed dead, her parents and the Obama administration have said.
The White House said Kayla Jean Mueller’s family received a private message from her captors over the weekend and the information was authenticated by the US intelligence community. It was not immediately clear how and when she died.
“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.”
President Barack Obama said Ms Mueller, an aid worker who assisted humanitarian organisations working with Syrian refugees, “epitomised 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.
The White House said Mr Obama had spoken to Ms Mueller’s parents and offered his condolences and prayers.
She is the fourth American to die while being held by “Islamic State” militants. Three others – journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff and aid worker Peter Kassig – were beheaded.
Journalist Austin Tice, of Houston, Texas, disappeared in August 2012 while covering Syria’s civil war. It is not clear what entity is holding him but it is not believed to be IS.
Ms Mueller was taken in August 2013 while leaving a hospital in Syria. Her identity was long kept secret out of fears for her safety.
On Friday, IS claimed she died in a Jordanian air strike. Jordan, which has launched a barrage of strikes on IS in recent days in retaliation for the killing of one of its pilots, dismissed the claim as propaganda and the White House said at the time that it had seen no evidence to corroborate the claims.
David Cameron has said he is “deeply saddened” by the death of the aid worker and insisted her “brutal” captors are solely responsible for her demise.
He said: “I am deeply saddened to hear of the death of US aid worker Kayla Mueller and my thoughts are with her friends and family as they deal with this awful news.
“Let me be clear – those responsible for her death are the terrorists that kidnapped Ms Mueller and who held her against her will ever since.”
He added: “Kayla travelled to the region to help men, women and children forced to flee their homes and her death demonstrates yet again the indiscriminate brutality of Isil.”
Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said the terror group’s violence “will not succeed”.
In a tweet he said: “Deeply distressing to hear of death of aid worker Kayla Mueller. My thoughts with her family and friends. #ISIL violence will not succeed.”