After ISIS released a video on Tuesday depicting the grisly execution of Jordanian pilot Lt. Moath al-Kasasbeh, who was burned alive in a cage, Jordanian King Abdullah vowed to crush ISIS and, on Thursday, initiated a campaign of airstrikes. According to CNN, Jordan claims that its early attacks targeting ISIS’ training facilities and ammunition warehouses were successful, saying, “All targets were completely destroyed and all the planes returned to their bases safely.”
However, Fox News is reporting that, on Friday, ISIS issued a statement claiming that a Jordanian airstrike near Raqqa, Syria hit a building containing the last US hostage held by ISIS, killing her. ISIS also said that the strike failed to kill or injure any of its fighters. The report, which remains unconfirmed, is currently being investigated by the CIA. The Daily Beast notes that a Jordanian official responded to ISIS’ claims by saying, “This is just another PR stunt. This is just part of their whole media-spinning strategy. They’re trying to throw a wedge in the coalition.”
Though US officials have not yet confirmed the identify of the female hostage, International Business Times is reporting that the private security group SITE posted a translation of a press release reportedly issued by ISIS that identified the victim as Kayla Jean Mueller, a US aid worker. ISIS allegedly said in the press release, “The criminal Crusader coalition aircraft bombarded a site outside the city of ar-Raqqah today at noon while the people were performing the Friday prayer. The air assaults were continuous on the same location for more than an hour. Allah made their pursuit disappointed and deterred their cunning, and no mujahid was injured in the bombardment, and all praise is due to Allah. It was confirmed to us the killing of an American female hostage by fire of the shells dropped on the site, and she is Kayla Jean Mueller.”
US National Security Council spokesperson Bernadette Meehan told The Daily Beast, “We are obviously deeply concerned by these reports. We have not at this time seen any evidence that corroborates ISIL’s claim.”
Kayla Jean Mueller from Prescott, AZ reportedly worked for the humanitarian group Support to Life and is believed to have been captured by ISIS in August of 2013 while working to reunite war-uprooted refugee families in Aleppo, Syria. An August 2014 report by CBS News noted that ISIS at that time demanded $6.6 million in ransom in exchange for the release of a female US aid worker who is now believed to have been Mueller. Foreign Policy notes that, while US officials have not yet officially confirmed Mueller as a hostage held by ISIS, White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough accidentally let her name slip during a January television appearance.
According to NBC News, Jordanian state media claims that Lt. Moath al-Kasasbeh was executed on January 3, despite the fact that ISIS continued to offer his thus-impossible release as a negotiating chip later into the month, raising suspicions that Mueller might have been executed by ISIS prior to the Jordanian strike and that her death is being purposefully misattributed to Jordan in an effort to drive a wedge between Jordan and the United States.