Jordan has responded to a claim by the Islamic State (ISIS) on Friday that American hostage Kayla Jean Mueller was killed by collateral damage from Jordanian airstrikes, saying that ISIS has provided no proof of Mueller’s death, and is lying about either the fact or manner of her death. American officials also said they had seen no evidence that Mueller was killed.
The online posting from ISIS announcing her death included several photographs of her, none of them recent. There were also photographs of the bombed-out building where she supposedly died, but analysts noted those also did not appear to be recent photos of a freshly-bombed structure, as there was no smoke rising from the debris. It is also possible that the message announcing her death was not an authentic ISIS communique; it was posted on a website often used by the Islamic State and passed around by the groups fans on Twitter, but intelligence agencies have not yet announced its authentication. The UK Daily Mail reports there was no official confirmation of airstrikes in the area where Mueller allegedly died from the Jordanian government, although “unverified reports on social media claimed the city has been hit multiple times.”
A Jordanian government spokesman told CNN his government was “highly skeptical” of the report, describing it as an obvious ploy to weaken morale in the U.S. and Jordan. “What we know about this terrorist organization is that they are liars when it comes to this things,” he observed.
Jordanian Interior Minister Hussein Majali added his opinion that the report was an ISIS “P.R. stunt” designed to “cause problems internally in Jordan” and “drive a wedge between the coalition.”
CNN also has a statement from Mueller’s parents, who have, until now, asked the media and government officials to keep their daughter’s identity confidential, out of concerns for her safety: “After going to extraordinary efforts to keep Kayla’s name out of the media for so long, by securing the cooperation of journalists throughout the world, her name was released today. This news leaves us concerned, yet, we are still hopeful that Kayla is alive. We have sent you a private message and ask that you respond to us privately.”
As CNN goes on to note, judging the veracity of this claim is tricky because while ISIS is notorious for visiting torment and murder upon its prisoners, they’re also noted for lying about whether their hostages are alive or dead. Most of their high-profile butchery was performed weeks before videos of the murders was released; Lt. Mu’ath al-Kaseasbeh, horribly burned alive in a video released last week, is thought to have been dead for several weeks, meaning ISIS was bargaining for concessions to release a man it had already killed. Analysts are divided between conceding that so little is known about the distribution of ISIS forces within occupied Syrian territory that it’s possible Mueller could have been held in any given building hit by an airstrike and observing that the terrorists’ story about her death has a few holes in it, notably the claim that none of their fighters was even injured by an airstrike that supposedly killed a prisoner.
Sadly, it is also possible that Mueller has been dead for some time, and ISIS chose a convenient opportunity to use her death for propaganda purposes. We can all join her parents in hoping for better news, while working to annihilate the creatures who took her hostage. So far, it looks like ISIS badly miscalculated the effect its latest round of atrocities would have on the fighting spirit of Jordan.