Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Parents of American Woman Held by IS Confirm Her Death

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Parents of American Woman Held by IS Confirm Her Death

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON * American hostage Kayla Jean Mueller, 26, has died at the hands of Islamic State militants, the Pentagon said Tuesday.

Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby was asked Tuesday if there was any doubt who had killed the aid worker.

He replied: "No doubt. ISIL," using initials the group is known by.

Kirby said U.S. officials didn't know how Mueller had died. But he added that officials were certain it was not in one of the airstrikes Jordan launched in retaliation for the killing of one of its pilots, as Islamic State had claimed.

Mueller was taken hostage in August 2013 while leaving a hospital in Syria. Islamic State reported Friday that Mueller, whose 18- month captivity had largely been kept secret in an effort to save her, had died in a recent Jordanian airstrike targeting the militants.

On Tuesday, her parents and U.S. officials said they were now certain of her death.

People in the small town of Prescott, Ariz., where Mueller grew up, began gathering in grief Tuesday.

"What a fine, fine woman and a tribute to Prescott," said resident Tina Nemeth. "It's just so sad, it really is, and everyone feels exactly the same. It's a shock it hit Prescott. We're not that big of a town."

Prescott has only recently begun to recover from a devastating 2013 wildfire that claimed the lives of 19 members of an elite firefighting squad. Stickers featuring the fire crew's logo and bearing the number "19" are still fixed to vehicles all around the town of 40,000 people.

The mountain town's picturesque courthouse lawn is still recognizable to some outsiders as the site of the martial-arts fight scene in the 1971 movie "Billy Jack."

On Tuesday, it was filled with reporters waiting to hear from Mueller's family, who live about 10 minutes away at the end of a winding dirt road. Sheriff's deputies have blocked the road since Friday.

"We are heartbroken to share that we've received confirmation that Kayla Jean Mueller has lost her life," Mueller's parents, Carl and Marsha Mueller, said in a statement released earlier. "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. …

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