White House confirms death of hostage Kayla Mueller, but cannot say how she died

White House says, regardless of what caused the death of hostage Kayla Mueller, Islamic State is held responsible.

WASHINGTON, D.C., UNITED STATES (FEBRUARY 10, 2015) (NBC) – The White House said on Tuesday (February 10) that the family of Kayla Mueller had received a private communication from Islamic State over the weekend that their daughter, an American aid worker they held as a hostage in Syria, had died.

White House spokesman said the information was relayed to American intelligence agencies, which verified the claim, but added that a determination of the cause of death could not be made.

“ISIL, regardless of her cause of death, is responsible for it. This, after all, is the organization that was holding her against her will. That means they are responsible for her safety and her well being. And they are, therefore, responsible for her death,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said, referring to Islamic State.

Mueller was captured in August 2013 while leaving a hospital in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo. She previously had been working in Turkey providing humanitarian assistance to refugees from Syria’s civil war.

Islamic State said on Friday that Mueller was killed when Jordanian fighter jets bombed a building where she was being held outside Raqqa, a stronghold of the Islamist militant group.

U.S. officials said they had no evidence to support Islamic State claims that she was killed in a Jordanian air strike, adding the details surrounding her death remained unclear. Two U.S. government sources said that it appears most likely that she was killed in some kind of combat situation in which her captors were unable to keep her safe.

Mueller’s family said in a statement on Tuesday that they were “heartbroken” to learn of her death and released a copy of a letter she had written in 2014 while in captivity.

Mueller was Islamic State’s only American woman hostage known to have died. The group has beheaded three other Americans, two Britons and two Japanese hostages — most of them aid workers or journalists — in recent months.