'ISIS leader al-Baghdadi repeatedly raped US hostage Mueller before her death'

"We were told Kayla was tortured, that she was the property of al-Baghdadi," Mueller's parents, Carl and Marsha Mueller, told ABC News.

August 14, 2015 21:53
3 minute read.
Kayla Mueller

Kayla Mueller, 26, an American humanitarian worker from Prescott, Arizona. (photo credit: REUTERS)

US counter-terrorism officials believe that Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi repeatedly raped American hostage Kayla Mueller before she was killed earlier this year, ABC News is reporting on Friday.

"We were told Kayla was tortured, that she was the property of al-Baghdadi," Mueller's parents, Carl and Marsha Mueller, are quoted as saying by ABC News. "We were told that in June by the government."

According to ABC News, Mueller was held captive in the home of a top ISIS official, Abu Sayyaf. It was there that al-Baghdadi would regularly frequent to consult with Abu Sayyaf, the Tunisian Islamist who was reportedly in charge of the movement's gas and oil revenues.

US government officials said that it was during these visits that he would regularly commit acts of sexual assault against Mueller.

US officials told ABC News that they were able to piece together aspects of Mueller's ordeal after taking statements from two Yazidi teenage girls who were held as sex slaves in Abu Sayyaf's compound.

Mueller, 26, was confirmed to have died under circumstances that remain unclear about 18 months after she was abducted while leaving a hospital in northern Syria.

The White House said Mueller's family received a message from her captors containing information that was authenticated by US intelligence analysts who verified her death.

President Barack Obama also acknowledged in an interview with the website Buzzfeed that Mueller was among the hostages whom US commandos were sent to rescue but failed to find in an operation he ordered last year.

This past May, the US government said that its special operations forces killed Abu Sayyaf during a raid in eastern Syria.

American government officials said that they held out hope that by tracking down Abu Sayyaf they would be able to learn of Mueller's precise whereabouts, though these hopes proved to be for naught.

CBS News reported earlier this year that the US intelligence community had learned that Mueller was given to an Islamic State fighter as a bride during her time in captivity.

During Mueller's 18 months as an Islamic State hostage, several rescue attempts were made by the US military, but all failed, including a July mission which also tried to rescue fellow American hostages James Foley and Steven Sotloff, who were later killed.

In one such operation, for example, a man was sent to the Syrian terror camp, pretending to be her husband, and demanded her release, according to Arizona Rep. Paul Gosar in an interview with The Arizona Republic. However, Mueller was unaware of this rescue mission and denied that she had a husband, unwittingly losing her chance of gaining freedom.

Obama responded to the failed rescue attempts. "I deployed an entire operation - at significant risk - to rescue not only her but the other individuals that had been held and probably missed them by a day or two," he said.

The White House stood by its long-held policy of not paying ransom for the lives of US citizens held hostage.

"Once we start doing that, not only are we financing their slaughter of innocent people and strengthening their organization, but we're actually making Americans even greater targets for future kidnappings," Obama said.

In April, the British newspaper Guardian reported that al-Baghdadi, the reclusive leader who calls himself "caliph," has been recuperating for weeks from serious injuries sustained as a result of a March air strike in western Iraq.

The daily cited an Iraqi source as saying that Baghdadi’s injuries were initially so severe that it forced him to relinquish day-to-day control of ISIS.

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