WASHINGTON – Kayla Jean Mueller, the U.S. aid worker whose death as a captive of Islamic State extremists was confirmed Tuesday, was among the hostages sought in a failed U.S. rescue attempt last year, President Barack Obama said.
Obama, in an interview on Tuesday with the web site BuzzFeed, confirmed for the first time publicly that Mueller was in the group that included journalist James Foley which U.S. special operations forces tried to rescue in northern Syria last August, only to discover they had been moved.
The raid was initially disclosed by the White House after Islamic State on Aug. 19 released a video of Foley’s beheading.
“We devoted enormous resources and always devote enormous resources to freeing captives or hostages anywhere in the world,” Obama said in the interview.
He said the U.S. will continue to refuse ransom demands from terrorists even though denying them is “as tough as anything I do.”
Intelligence officials used photographs received by Mueller’s family over the weekend to confirm the death of the 26-year-old Arizona woman, who had been held by Islamic State group since August 2013. She was the last remaining known U.S. hostage held by the group, though at least one other American is being held in the region.
At least one more U.S. hostage still is being held in the region, Earnest said. While he declined to identify the hostage, the family of freelance journalist Austin Tice has said he is being held in Syria, though not by Islamic State.
Tice’s parents have pushed for more family involvement in hostage recovery and for families to have a say in the review Obama ordered of U.S. hostage policy. That review will be finished later this spring, Earnest said.
Obama said the review will not include any change in the U.S. refusal to pay ransom.
“Once we start doing that, not only are we financing their slaughter of innocent people and strengthening their organization, we’re making Americans even greater targets for future kidnappings,” Obama said.
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