Letter by US hostage killed by ISIS shows her grit and hope

LAST WORDS: Miss Kayla Mueller (L) wrote this letter (R) to her loved ones last year. The family released it on Tuesday.

With the confirmed death of Miss Kayla Mueller, new details have emerged about the American hostage's experience in Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) captivity, including the belief by some officials that she had been given over to a commander in the group.

"ISIS didn't see her as a hostage or a bargaining chip," a counter-terrorism official told ABC News.

Her ordeal has also been captured in a letter she wrote to her family.

The limited intelligence from Syria indicated that Miss Mueller was sometimes in the company of an ISIS leader who was being actively tracked and who had custody over her, possibly by forced marriage, officials told ABC News.

Sometimes the 26-year-old was with her ISIS keeper and other times she was not, two officials said.

Miss Mueller was confirmed to have died under circumstances that remain unclear about 18 months after she was abducted.

The White House said her 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 news website Buzzfeed that Miss Mueller was among the hostages whom US commandos were sent to rescue but failed to find in an operation he ordered last year.

The Arizona native, who was taken hostage in August 2013, took strength during captivity in her faith in God and the love of her family, she wrote in a letter relatives released on Tuesday.

"I have been shown in darkness, light + have learned that even in prison, one can be free," said a handwritten letter by Miss Mueller which was smuggled out by fellow captives following their release.

The humanitarian aid worker was driven by an unquenchable passion to help others, saying that service to others brought her closer to God.

In the letter, she said she managed to find glimmers of joy, even in captivity, AFP reported.

"I have come to see that there is good in every situation, sometimes we just have to look for it," she wrote in the letter received by her relatives early last year.


She revealed her unwavering determination to beat her captors and detailed how she dreamed of the day she would be reunited with her family at the airport.

She wrote: "None of us could have known it would be this long but know I am also fighting from my side in the ways I am able + I have a lot of fight left inside of me. I am not breaking down + I will not give in no matter how long it takes."

She was captured while leaving a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Aleppo, Syria.

Her humanitarian service over the years included volunteer work at a women's shelter in her hometown of Prescott, as well as work at an HIV/Aids clinic.

At the time she was taken hostage, Miss Mueller had been working along the Turkish-Syrian border, trying to help some of the thousands of refugees fleeing the Syrian civil war.

That conflict was but one of several where she had hoped to make a difference.

Since her graduation from Northern Arizona University in 2009, she had dedicated her life to helping those in need across the globe, from India to Israel to the Palestinian territories.

The family said they are buoyed by the knowledge of how much good she did during her short life.

Outside the county courthouse in her hometown, two of Miss Mueller's maternal aunts joined her childhood friend and a local pastor to deliver a tearful tribute, Reuters reported.

"She had a quiet, calming presence. She was a free spirit, always standing up for those who were suffering and wanting to be their voice," Ms Lori Lyon said of her niece in a statement.

"Kayla had such great empathy and it's hard to find that in this world," the Mail Online quoted her as saying.

"I'm not yet sure how to live in a world without Kayla but I do know we're all living in a world that's better because of her."

Miss Mueller was the last remaining American hostage known to be held by ISIS.

Three other Americans - journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, and aid worker Peter Kassig - were all beheaded by the group. British aid convoy volunteer Alan Henning and Scottish aid worker David Haines were also killed.

Mr Nicolas Henin, a French journalist, had been held hostage with Miss Mueller. He was freed in April 2014 after the French government negotiated with ISIS.

Mr Henin tweeted on Friday: "Kayla Mueller was among the very last of my former cellmates still detained. I was full of hope she could have a way out."

This article was first published on February 12, 2015.
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