Kayla Mueller, the 26-year-old American who was being held captive by ISIS, has been confirmed dead, her family and the White House announced Tuesday. “Kayla was a compassionate and devoted humanitarian," Mueller’s parents, Carl and Marsha, said in a statement. “She dedicated the whole of her young life to helping those in need of freedom, justice, and peace.”
According to the White House, Mueller’s captors sent her family a private message over the weekend relaying the news. That message—and the information in it—was then authenticated by the U.S. intelligence community, according to the Associated Press. The official confirmation comes four days after ISIS released a statement claiming that Mueller had been killed in a Jordanian airstrike over the ISIS stronghold of Raqqa, Syria. At the time, U.S. officials said they could not confirm that claim.
Mueller, a humanitarian aid worker, was captured in Syria in August 2013. She was the last known American hostage being held by ISIS. Prior to the group identifying her in last week’s statement, Mueller’s name, the New York Times explains, had “remained a closely guarded secret, whispered among reporters, government officials and hostage negotiators—all fearing that any public mention might imperil her life.”
In a statement Tuesday, Obama said that Mueller “epitomized all that is good in our world.” The president also vowed, “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.”