The “dark and dangerous” operation that claimed the life of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was named after American Kayla Mueller, 26, who was kidnapped by the extremist group and killed in 2015.
Mueller, who was described by her family as a “compassionate and devoted humanitarian,” traveled to Turkey in 2012 after her graduation and then crossed the border into Syria, on a mission to help those fleeing the civil war in the country. She was leaving a hospital run by the medical charity Doctors Without Borders in the Syrian city of Aleppo when she was kidnapped in August 2013.
In a letter to her family that she wrote while in captivity, she urged her loved ones not to let her situation burden them. “I DO NOT want the negotiations for my release to be your duty,” she wrote, adding: “I know you would want me to remain strong. That is exactly what I am doing.
“I remember mom always telling me that all in all in the end the only one you really have is God. I have come to a place in experience where, in every sense of the word, I have surrendered myself to our creator,” she wrote, invoking her religious beliefs throughout the letter.
In February 2015, the Islamic State claimed that Mueller was killed when a Jordanian fighter plane bombed the building in which she was being held. U.S. officials expressed skepticism about the claim, while the Jordanian government denied that its airstrikes had killed the American hostage.
The details surrounding Mueller’s death and the whereabouts of her body are still unclear.