In May, a U.S. Special Forces operation in Syria killed senior ISIS leader Abu Sayyaf, one of the top money men for the terror state. His wife Umm Sayyaf was taken prisoner and placed in detention in Iraq. Umm Sayyaf has now been charged in U.S. federal court with conspiracy in the death of Kayla Mueller, the American aid worker who was kidnapped, enslaved, brutalized, and ultimately killed by the Islamic State.
25-year-old Umm Sayyaf – an Iraqi citizen whose real name is Nisreen Assad Ibrahim Bahar – has admitted to the FBI that Mueller was “owned” as a slave by ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who raped her repeatedly during her captivity, according to a Reuters report.
Mueller was imprisoned at the Sayyaf residence in Syria during part of her captivity, leading to charges of “providing material support to a foreign terrorist organization that resulted in a person’s death.” Reuters reports the maximum sentence would be life in prison.
The Associated Press quotes the FBI’s affidavit stating that Mueller was “transferred in September 2014 along with several other female captives from an Islamic State prison to the Sayyafs.”
The women were kept in locked rooms by the Sayyafs, sometimes in handcuffs, treated like slaves, and made to watch “violent Islamic State propaganda videos.”
According to one of the other women held prisoner at the Sayyaf residence, efforts were made to forcibly convert Mueller to Islam, but she resisted these efforts.
Umm Sayyaf has admitted she was in charge of the prisoners while her husband was away from home.
A U.S. official described the federal charges against Sayyaf to the Daily Beast as an “‘insurance policy’ in case Iraqi officials fail to charge her or she is ever transferred to another country or she escapes prison.”
Sayyaf has been in Kurdish custody for the past nine months, with no charges filed against her yet. U.S. officials originally wanted to extradite her for trial in America, given her involvement in an American citizen’s death, but Iraqi law prohibits such extradition. Using federal charges to take out an “insurance policy” could be taken as a sign that the Obama Administration has lost faith in the Iraqi justice system, although American officials still stress their commitment to the Iraqi courts.
The Daily Beast also notes that the federal charges against Sayyaf do not clarify the precise circumstances of Mueller’s death. ISIS claims she was killed when a Jordanian airstrike hit the building where she was being kept, an account many news organizations repeat as established fact, although the U.S. government has officially refuted it. Rescued Yazidi sex slaves have said Mueller was murdered by ISIS militants before the air strike occurred.