Analysis: The Islamic State claims Jordanian airstrikes killed an American hostage

Screen Shot 2015-02-06 at 1.16.20 PM.png

Note: This article has been updated to note that Foreign Policy has confirmed the US-led coalition launched airstrikes in Raqqa earlier today.

A statement attributed to the Islamic State claims that an American woman who was being held hostage, Kayla Jean Mueller, was killed during Jordanian airstrikes earlier today. The statement contains a photo set showing a building that was allegedly struck by Jordanian bombers.

The claim could not be independently verified and its overall veracity is questionable.

One photo published by the group can be seen above and others at the end of this article. The web page containing the announcement also purports to publish Mueller’s address in Arizona, her telephone number and email address.

Several elements of the statement and the photos immediately draw into question the claimed circumstances surrounding Mueller’s alleged death.

The Islamic State set off an international controversy when its fighters burned a Jordanian pilot alive. Conveniently, the group now claims that Jordan’s bombers killed an American hostage. It is not clear how the Islamic State knows the bombers that supposedly hit this area were Jordanian, as opposed to other coalition aircraft.

Moreover, the statement says that Mueller was killed by the “fire” caused by the bombings. This is, again, convenient given the manner in which Mu’adh Yusuf al Kasasibah was executed. It is an attempt to draw moral equivalency between Jordan’s attacks on the Islamic State, and the means by which the Islamic State killed a Jordanian pilot. In fact, the group’s supporters have been aggressively making “an eye for an eye” justifications on social media since the grotesque execution video was first aired.

The Islamic State says that Mueller was killed during Friday prayers in the city of Raqqa, which serves as the de facto seat of its “caliphate.” The implication is that the Jordanians were bombing during a holy time for Muslims.

The statement also alleges that no jihadists were killed, only Mueller, despite “continuous raids” on the location for more than one hour. This would be an incredibly inefficient use of Jordan’s airpower, if true, as its bombers are surely targeting locations that can do the most damage to the Islamic State’s positions. And it is not clear how the building shown in the photos could still be standing at all, even with significant damage, if the bombers really struck this precise location for more than one hour.

As of this writing, the coalition had not yet announced any airstrikes in Raqqa today. The latest statement from CENTCOM says that, from 8 am on Feb. 5 to 8 am Feb. 6 (local time), the coalition conducted ten airstrikes. Nine of the airstrikes took place near Kobani, targeting “nine [Islamic State] tactical units” and destroying two of the organization’s “fighting positions.” The tenth airstrike hit “multiple storage and staging facilities” near Al Hasakah.

Citing a CENTCOM official, however, Foreign Policy subsequently confirmed that the US-led “coalition conducted multiple airstrikes Friday in the Raqqa area against Islamic State targets” and the strikes “involved both US and coalition planes.”

Jordan did launch airstrikes in Iraq and Syria today. Citing Jordanian state television, CNN reports that the Jordanian armed forces claimed to have hit Islamic State “training centers, arms and ammunition depots.”

While it is certainly possible Mueller has been killed, the Islamic State’s description of how she was allegedly killed could very well be a propaganda ploy. Specific details in the Islamic State’s message, such as no other deaths caused by the coalition’s bombings in Raqqa, do not ring true.

Other photos released by the Islamic State:

Screen Shot 2015-02-06 at 1.18.21 PM.png

Screen Shot 2015-02-06 at 1.18.52 PM.png

Thomas Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Senior Editor for The Long War Journal.

Tags: , , ,


  • mike merlo says:

    The Jordan Times ‘said’ Raqqa was a target in their revenge raid for their Murdered Pilot. “Revenge” & Murdered Pilot” are my words not The Jordan Times

  • Dave says:

    ISIS: Your credibility in all other nations is zero. I don’t believe you. Nobody believes you. You have only the world’s disgust for the killing, rape, and torture of so many innocents..
    But your claim that Jordanian bombing killed Kayla Jean Mueller would be simple to support … return her body to her family … along with your explanation of why you held this good young woman hostage in the first place.
    But be forewarned. Whether Jordanian bombing killed Kayla Mueller or not, her blood is on your hands. Her death will only strengthen the resolve of all nations to end the sewage pit that is ISIS.

  • Birbal Dhar says:

    Why they kept her for some time is a bit of a mystery compared to other western hostages ? Perhaps because she was female and recording her image on video would have been un-islamic. I suspect they probably kept her for some prison exchange or monetary fund. Looks like sadly she lost her life, although IS saying she was dead because of the air-raid is a bit sceptical when they would have guards surrounding her. I don’t believe that a missile destroying parts of the building would kill her only and not injure or put death any guards, unless the guards were female, who ISIS don’t consider as definition of mujahideens.

  • rc26mso says:

    LWJ staff,
    We are deeply saddened by the loss of a friend of our family. No one trusts the current version of events as remotely truthful. Please continue to update with any information you can.

  • richard says:

    The Jordanian pilot was not “executed”, he was murdered.

  • James says:

    My inclination is to believe that if Kayla is with God now that she, just like the Jordanian pilot, was most likely killed weeks, if not months ago. Concerning the Jordanian pilot, that wasn’t just an act of murder, that was a lynching. They are about as Godly as the KKK is Christian.
    If true, this proves that this murderous gang of serial rapists and pedophile thugs will go so low as to put out lies that hostages are still alive after they’ve murdered them. They are lower than the Nazis ever were.
    These kind of individuals need to be eliminated. Our right to exist is at stake here. May it be scrawled on their grave marker(s) (if they even get one): “GONE AND FORGOTTEN ! ! ! ”
    My heart and prayers go out for you, Kayla, and her family’s sake. None of those hostages deserved to be treated as they were over there.

  • Joe says:

    Perhaps it should be considered that these ‘hostages’ are assets of the Islamic State. They exploit these ‘hostages’ in grotesque ways for propaganda purposes, perceived by the Islamic State as advancing its agenda.
    Some people should stop fooling themselves. A Westerner – especially an American – male or female – who is an Islamic State ‘hostage’ – is already dead.
    If US intelligence, or the Jordanians, know the location or locations of these ‘hostages’ – the choices are simple:
    If a rescue attempt is feasible, which is now unlikely, it should be attempted.
    If a rescue attempt is not feasible, then every effort should be made to deprive the Islamic State of these assets by killing the ‘hostages’ ourselves.
    If I – an American – were an Islamic State ‘hostage’ I would rather die at the hands of my own government in a tactical strike than die at the hands of some Islamic State PIG in a propaganda video.

  • Barry Larking says:

    Kayla Jean Mueller Rest in Peace in the arms of your ever loving God, free from the demented fantasies of this world. BL.
    Curiously, and not for the first time, Islamic terrorists of which ISIS is simply the latest iteration, use concepts derived from western moral precepts when it suits. Kayla was kidnapped and held. She was no guest, free to come or go as she would have chosen. Her death results from the actions of those who seized her and threatened her well being by so doing. By this account, Kayla’s death suddenly becomes someone else’s fault – however plausible the story surrounding it. Fault: i.e. killing her was wrong. Why would ISIS even care, given what was meted out to so many others by way of Islamic justice, filmed for good measure? We are being taken for fools. Am I or her grieving family meant to be impressed by this late flowering concern for Kayla’s life? Cynical.


Islamic state



Al shabaab

Boko Haram