Purported IS claim: Jordan airstrike kills female US hostage

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Purported IS claim: Jordan airstrike kills female US hostage
ISIS says American hostage Kayla Mueller died when Jordanian fighter jets bombed the militants' stronghold in Raqqa. The group hasn't given proof.
American aid worker and ISIS hostage Kayla Jean Mueller reportedly killed in coalition air strike. http://t.co/RO5B4YXa2M
This is Kayla Jean Mueller, the American female being held hostage by ISIS http://t.co/MOXLjNx8aa
Jordanian students shout slogans on February 5, 2015 in the capital Amman during a rally against the Islamic state (IS) group and in reaction to the burning alive of Jordanian pilot Maaz al-Kassasbeh by the group's militants. Jordan said its warplanes had launched new strikes against the IS group, after vowing a harsh response to the fighter pilot murder. The placards show Jordan's King Abdullah II and Maaz al-Kassasbeh. AFP PHOTO / KHALIL MAZRAAWI (Photo credit should read KHALIL MAZRAAWI/AFP/Getty Images)
(al-Furqan Media)
Jawdat al-Kassasbeh, the brother of Jordanian pilot Maaz al-Kassasbeh, who was burned alive by Islamic state (IS) group's militants, flashes the sign of victory during a rally against IS group and in reaction to the pilot's murder on February 5, 2015 in the capital Amman. Jordan said its warplanes had launched new strikes against the IS group, after vowing a harsh response to the fighter pilot murder. AFP PHOTO / KHALIL MAZRAAWI (Photo credit should read KHALIL MAZRAAWI/AFP/Getty Images)
Jordanian students shout slogans waving national flags on February 5, 2015 in the capital Amman during a rally against the Islamic state (IS) group and in reaction to the burning alive of Jordanian pilot Maaz al-Kassasbeh (on the placards) by the group's militants. Jordan said its warplanes had launched new strikes against the IS group, after vowing a harsh response to the fighter pilot murder. AFP PHOTO / KHALIL MAZRAAWI (Photo credit should read KHALIL MAZRAAWI/AFP/Getty Images)
AMMAN, JORDAN - FEBRUARY 4: Jordanians welcome King Abdullah as he arrives at Aliya Airport 30 kilometers from the capital Amman, Jordan on February 4, 2015. He has cut his visit to America short following the burning to death of Jordanian pilot Muaz el-Kesasibe by Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Jordanians met King Abdullah with posters of the King and Jordanian flags on his arrival at Aliya Airport 30 kilometers from the capital Amman. (Photo by Salah Malkawi/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
A Jordanian shouts slogans on February 5, 2015 in the capital Amman during a rally against the Islamic state (IS) group and in reaction to the burning alive of Jordanian pilot Maaz al-Kassasbeh by the group's militants. Jordan said its warplanes had launched new strikes against the IS group, after vowing a harsh response to the fighter pilot murder. The placards show Jordan's King Abdullah II and Maaz al-Kassasbeh. AFP PHOTO / KHALIL MAZRAAWI (Photo credit should read KHALIL MAZRAAWI/AFP/Getty Images)
A Jordanian student sits in front of a giant poster showing Jordan's King Abdullah II as he holds a placard bearing a portrait of late Jordanian pilot Maaz al-Kassasbeh on February 5, 2015 during a rally in the capital Amman against the Islamic state (IS) group after its militants burned alive the pilot. Jordan said its warplanes had launched new strikes against the IS group, after vowing a harsh response to the fighter pilot murder. AFP PHOTO / KHALIL MAZRAAWI (Photo credit should read KHALIL MAZRAAWI/AFP/Getty Images)
Jordanian Muslim worshippers perform a prayer on February 4, 2015 in the capital Amman, for Jordanian pilot Maaz al-Kassasbeh, who was burnt alive by Islamic State (IS) group militants after they captured him when his jet crashed in northern Syria in December. The burning alive of the Jordanian pilot by the IS group has shocked the kingdom, where people are expected to rally behind a military campaign against the jihadists, experts say. AFP PHOTO / STR (Photo credit should read -/AFP/Getty Images)
(al-Furqan Media)
(al-Furqan Media)
(al-Furqan Media)
(al-Furqan Media)
(al-Furqan Media)
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(al-Furqan Media)
FILE - In this Wednesday, Jan. 28, 2015 file photo, a man comforts the wife of Jordanian pilot, Lt. Muath al-Kaseasbeh, who is held by the Islamic State group militants, during a protest in front of the Royal Palace in Amman, Jordan. An online video released Tuesday, Feb. 3, 2015 purportedly shows a Jordanian pilot captured by the Islamic State extremist group being burned to death. The Associated Press was not immediately able to confirm the authenticity of the video, which was released on militant websites and bore the logo of the extremist group's al-Furqan media service. (AP Photo/Raad Adayleh, File)
Safi al-Kaseasbeh, right, father of slain Jordanian pilot, Lt. Muath al-Kaseasbeh receives condolences from tribal leaders at the Kaseasbeh tribe's gathering divan at their home village of Ai, near Karak, Jordan, Wednesday, Feb. 4, 2015. Jordan executed two al-Qaida prisoners before dawn Wednesday, just hours after an online video purported to show Islamic State group militants burning a captured Jordanian pilot to death in a cage. (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser)
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe attends the Lower House's budget committee session at the National Diet in Tokyo on February 4, 2015. Abe condemned the apparent execution by the Islamic State group of a Jordanian pilot as 'unforgivable', days after the murders of two Japanese hostages. AFP PHOTO / Yoshikazu TSUNO (Photo credit should read YOSHIKAZU TSUNO/AFP/Getty Images)
Safi al-Kaseasbeh, center, father of slain Jordanian pilot, Lt. Muath al-Kaseasbeh is escorted by relatives while receiving condolences in front of the Kaseasbeh tribe's gathering divan at their home village of Ai, near Karak, Jordan, Wednesday, Feb. 4, 2015. Jordan executed two al-Qaida prisoners before dawn Wednesday, just hours after an online video purported to show Islamic State group militants burning a captured Jordanian pilot to death in a cage. (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser)
Relatives of slain Jordanian pilot, Lt. Muath al-Kaseasbeh attend the mourning ceremony at the Kaseasbeh tribe's gathering divan at their home village of Ai, near Karak, Jordan, Wednesday, Feb. 4, 2015. Jordan executed two al-Qaida prisoners before dawn Wednesday, just hours after an online video purported to show Islamic State group militants burning a captured Jordanian pilot to death in a cage. (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser)
An ambulance transports the bodies of Sajida al-Rishawi and Ziad al-Karbouly, two Iraqis linked to al-Qaida, after their executions at Swaqa prison about 50 miles (80 kilometers) south of the Jordan's capital, Amman, Wednesday, Feb. 4, 2015. Jordan executed two al-Qaida prisoners before dawn Wednesday, just hours after an online video purported to show Islamic State group militants burning a captured Jordanian pilot to death in a cage. (AP Photo/Raad Adayleh)
Jordanian security forces leave Swaqa prison, after the executions of Sajida al-Rishawi and Ziad al-Karbouly, two Iraqis linked to al-Qaida, about 50 miles (80 kilometers) south of the Jordan's capital, Amman, Wednesday, Feb. 4, 2015. Jordan executed two al-Qaida prisoners before dawn Wednesday, just hours after an online video purported to show Islamic State group militants burning a captured Jordanian pilot to death in a cage. (AP Photo/Raad Adayleh)
President Barack Obama, right, meets with King Abdullah II of Jordan in the Oval Office of the White House, on Tuesday, Feb. 3, 2015, in Washington. The meeting comes after Jordanian Air Force pilot First Lt. Moaz al-Kasasbeh was executed by the Islamic State group. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Graffiti depicting Jordan's national flags and Arabic that reads "Jordan is first," outside the burned offices of the local governorate that was set on fire by angry protesters during riots, at the village of A'ai, the home village of the slain Jordanian pilot, Lt. Muath al-Kaseasbeh, at the outskirts of Karak, Jordan, Tuesday, Feb. 3, 2015. A video released online Tuesday purportedly showed a Jordanian pilot captured by the Islamic State extremist group in Syria being burned to death by his captors following a weeklong drama over a possible prisoner exchange. (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser)
Members of Al-Kaseasbeh, the tribe of Jordanian pilot, Lt. Muath al-Kaseasbeh, who is held by the Islamic State group militants, light candles by posters with his picture and Arabic that reads "we are all Muath," at the captured pilot's tribal gathering divan, in his home town of Karak, Jordan, Saturday, Jan. 31, 2015. An online video released Saturday night purported to show an Islamic State group militant behead Japanese journalist Kenji Goto, ending days of negotiations by diplomats to save the man. (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser)
(al-Furqan Media)
AMMAN, JORDAN - FEBRUARY 03: A group of people stage protest after a release of a video, allegedly shows execution of the Jordanian pilot Maaz al-Kassasbeh who has been held captive by Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) forces, in Amman, Jordan on February 03, 2015. (Photo by Salah Malkawi/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
AMMAN, JORDAN - FEBRUARY 03: A group of people stage protest after a release of a video, allegedly shows execution of the Jordanian pilot Maaz al-Kassasbeh who has been held captive by Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) forces, in Amman, Jordan on February 03, 2015. (Photo by Salah Malkawi/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
AMMAN, JORDAN - FEBRUARY 03:Angry Jordanians gather after after hearing the news of the execution of Jordanian pilot Muath Al Kasasbeh, at the Kasasbeh tribe society on February 3, 2015 in Amman, Jordan. Today a video was released depicting captured Jordanian pilot First Lieutenant Moaz al-Kasabeh being burned alive in a cage by the Islamic State (ISIS) group. (Photo by Jordan Pix/Getty Images)
AMMAN, JORDAN - FEBRUARY 03: A group of people stage protest after a release of a video, allegedly shows execution of the Jordanian pilot Maaz al-Kassasbeh who has been held captive by Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) forces, in Amman, Jordan on February 03, 2015. (Photo by Salah Malkawi/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Anwar Tarawneh (C), the wife of Jordanian pilot Maaz al-Kassasbeh, who was captured by Islamic State (IS) group militants on December 24 after his F-16 jet crashed while on a mission against the jihadists over northern Syria, sheds a tear during a rally calling for the release of her captive husband in the Jordanian capital Amman on February 3, 2015. Jordan vowed to do all it could to save the pilot held by IS after the jihadists killed a Japanese journalist they had been holding. IS has been demanding the release of an Iraqi jihadist on death row in Jordan in exchange for Kassasbeh's life, and Amman said it would hand her over if given proof that he is still alive. AFP PHOTO / KHALIL MAZRAAWI (Photo credit should read KHALIL MAZRAAWI/AFP/Getty Images)
FILE - In this , Wednesday, Jan. 28, 2015 file photo, the sister, right, and wife, left, of Jordanian pilot, Lt. Muath al-Kaseasbeh, who is held by the Islamic State group militants, cry as they ride a car during a protest in front of the Royal Palace in Amman, Jordan. An online video released Tuesday, Feb. 3, 2015 purportedly shows a Jordanian pilot captured by the Islamic State extremist group being burned to death. The Associated Press was not immediately able to confirm the authenticity of the video, which was released on militant websites and bore the logo of the extremist group's al-Furqan media service. (AP Photo/Raad Adayleh, File)
FILE - This Wednesday, Dec. 24, 2014 file image posted by the Raqqa Media Center, which monitors events in territory controlled by Islamic State militants with the permission of the extremist group, shows militants with a captured pilot, Mu'ath Al-Kaseasbeh, wearing a white shirt, in Raqqa, Syria. The 26-year old Jordanian pilot is the first foreign military pilot to fall into the Islamic State group's hands since an international coalition began its aerial campaign against the group in September. He was carrying out air strikes against the militants when his F-16 went down near the Islamic State group’s de facto capital of Raqqa on Dec. 24. His captors have not made any public demands for his release. (AP Photo/Raqqa Media Center, File)
FILE - This Wednesday Dec. 24, 2014, this image posted by the Raqqa Media Center, which monitors events in territory controlled by Islamic State militants with the permission of the extremist group, shows militants with a captured pilot, center right, wearing a white shirt in Raqqa, Syria. Though it is impossible to gauge in any tangible way the effect the deadly attack on a Paris newspaper will have on recruitment by extremist groups - and there is no evidence so far that it is mobilizing large numbers of would-be jihadis - experts believe the perceived professionalism of the brothers' assault and their subsequent showdown with police could rally more supporters to militant ranks. (AP Photo/Raqqa Media Center, File)
FILE - In this Tuesday, Jan. 27, 2015 file photo, the mother of Jordanian pilot Lt. Mu'ath al-Kaseasbeh holds a picture of her son, who is held by Islamic State group militants, in a car during a sit-in in front of the cabinet offices in Amman, Jordan. An online video released Tuesday, Feb. 3, 2015 purportedly shows a Jordanian pilot captured by the Islamic State extremist group being burned to death. The Associated Press was not immediately able to confirm the authenticity of the video, which was released on militant websites and bore the logo of the extremist group's al-Furqan media service. (AP Photo/Raad Adayleh, File)
Anwar al-Tarawneh, the wife of Jordanian pilot, Lt. Muath al-Kaseasbeh, who is held by Islamic State group militants, holds a poster of him as she weeps during a protest in Amman, Jordan, Tuesday, Feb. 3, 2015. An online video released Tuesday, Feb. 3, 2015 purportedly shows a Jordanian pilot captured by the Islamic State extremist group being burned to death. The Associated Press was not immediately able to confirm the authenticity of the video, which was released on militant websites and bore the logo of the extremist group's al-Furqan media service. (AP Photo/Raad Adayleh)
FILE - In this Jan. 3, 2015 file photo, Safi Yousef al-Kaseasbeh, the father of the Jordanian pilot 1st Lt. Mu'ath al-Kaseasbeh, speaks on his mobile phone, while standing by a poster of his son at a gathering of his family in Karak, south of Amman, Jordan. An online video released Tuesday, Feb. 3, 2015 purportedly shows a Jordanian pilot captured by the Islamic State extremist group being burned to death. The Associated Press was not immediately able to confirm the authenticity of the video, which was released on militant websites and bore the logo of the extremist group's al-Furqan media service. (AP Photo/Raad Adayleh, File)
Anwar al-Tarawneh, center, the wife of Jordanian pilot, Lt. Muath al-Kaseasbeh, who is held by Islamic State group militants, holds a poster of him with Arabic that reads, "we are all Muath," during a protest in Amman, Jordan, Tuesday, Feb. 3, 2015. An online video released Tuesday, Feb. 3, 2015 purportedly shows a Jordanian pilot captured by the Islamic State extremist group being burned to death. The Associated Press was not immediately able to confirm the authenticity of the video, which was released on militant websites and bore the logo of the extremist group's al-Furqan media service. (AP Photo/Raad Adayleh)
Jawdat Al-Kaseasbeh, brother of Jordanian pilot, Lt. Muath al-Kaseasbeh, who is held by the Islamic State group militants, center, carries a poster with his brothers picture and Arabic that reads "we are all Muath," while joining fellow tribe members carrying posters and candles at the captured pilot's tribal gathering divan, in his home town of Karak, Jordan, Saturday, Jan. 31, 2015. An online video released Saturday night purported to show an Islamic State group militant behead Japanese journalist Kenji Goto, ending days of negotiations by diplomats to save the man. (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser)
Members of Al-Kaseasbeh, the tribe of Jordanian pilot, Lt. Muath al-Kaseasbeh, who is held by the Islamic State group militants, light candles and carry posters with his picture and Arabic that reads "we are all Muath," at the captured pilot's tribal gathering divan, in his home town of Karak, Jordan, Saturday, Jan. 31, 2015. An online video released Saturday night purported to show an Islamic State group militant behead Japanese journalist Kenji Goto, ending days of negotiations by diplomats to save the man. (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser)
A banner with a picture of Jordanian pilot, Lt. Muath al-Kaseasbeh, who is held by the Islamic State group militants, is being raised by workers near a tent prepared for receiving supporters, in front of the captured pilot's tribal gathering diwan, in Amman, Jordan, Friday, Jan. 30, 2015. The fates of a Japanese journalist and Jordanian military pilot were unknown Friday, a day after the latest purported deadline for a possible prisoner swap passed with no further word from the Islamic State group holding them captive. (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser)
ED NOTE: GRAPHIC CONTENT - This image made from a video released by Islamic State militants on Saturday, Jan. 31, 2015, purports to show a militant standing next to Japanese journalist Kenji Goto before his beheading by the militant group. Goto was captured in October 2014, after he traveled to Syria to try to win the release of Haruna Yukawa. (AP Photo)
A screen grab from a video posted to YouTube by ISIS that claims to show journalist James Foley, who was abducted in 2012 while covering the Syria civil war, being beheaded.
FILE - In this file still image from an undated video released by Islamic State militants on Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2014, purports to show journalist Steven Sotloff being held by the militant group. Islamic State militants called American journalist James Foley’s gruesome videotaped beheading revenge for U.S. airstrikes against the group, and they still hold at least three other Americans hostage, including Sotloff. (AP Photo, File)
Screen shot from an Internet video released Friday that purports to show an ISIS militant beheading British aid worker Alan Henning, who had been taken hostage by the extremist group.
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BEIRUT (AP) - A statement attributed to Islamic State extremists claimed that an American woman held hostage by the group was killed on Friday, allegedly in a Jordanian airstrike on the militants' stronghold of Raqqa in northern Syria.

The woman was identified as Kayla Jean Mueller, an American who went to Syria to do aid work, but there was no independent verification of the claim and the United States said it had no evidence of her death.

The 26-year-old Mueller, of Prescott, Arizona, is the only known remaining U.S. hostage held by the Islamic State group. Journalist Austin Tice, of Houston, Texas, disappeared in August 2012 while covering Syria's civil war. It's not clear what entity is holding him, but it is not believed to be the Islamic State group or the Syrian government, his family has said.

If Mueller's death is confirmed, she would be the fourth American to die while in the captivity of the Islamic State militants. Three other Americans, journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff and aid worker Peter Kassig were beheaded by the group.

The announcement also marked the second time this week the IS group announces the death of one of the hostages it holds.

IS released a video earlier this week, showing a captive Jordanian pilot being burned to death in a cage in gruesome images that sparked outrage in Jordan and across the region.

Friday's statement, which appeared on a militant website commonly used by IS and was also distributed by IS-affiliated Twitter users, said Mueller was killed during Muslim prayers - which usually take place around midday on Fridays - in airstrikes that targeted "the same location for more than an hour."

It published photos allegedly of the bombed site, showing a severely damaged brown colored three-story building - but offered no proof or images of Mueller.

No Islamic State militants were killed in the airstrikes, the statement further claimed, raising questions of whether Mueller was alone in the building and whether she was indeed killed in the strikes.

The Jordanian government said it was highly skeptical of the claim, describing it as a likely propaganda stunt, and American officials said they were looking into the report.

Bernadette Meehan, the spokeswoman for President Barack Obama's National Security Council, said the White House has "not at this time seen any evidence that corroborates" the claim.

"We are obviously deeply concerned by these reports," she added.

White House spokesman Eric Schultz told reporters traveling with the president to Indiana Friday that the U.S. does coordinate with the Jordanian air force as they fly airstrikes. He wouldn't say whether the U.S. was aware of the hostage's location.

The IS statement could not be independently verified but it appeared on a militant website commonly used by IS and was also distributed by IS-affiliated Twitter users.

Jordanian government spokesman Mohammed al-Momani said Jordan was looking into the claim.

"But as a first reaction, we think it's illogical and we are highly skeptical about it," he said. "How could they identify a Jordanian warplane ... in the sky? What was the American lady doing in a weapons warehouse?"

"It's part of their criminal propaganda. They have lied that our pilot is alive and tried to negotiate, claiming he is alive while they had killed him weeks before," al-Momani added.

Mueller had been working in Turkey assisting Syrian refugees, according to a 2013 article in The Daily Courier, her hometown newspaper. She told the paper that she was drawn to help with the situation in Syria.

"For as long as I live, I will not let this suffering be normal," she said. "It's important to stop and realize what we have, why we have it and how privileged we are. And from that place, start caring and get a lot done."

According to the local paper, Mueller had been working with the humanitarian aid agency Support to Life, as well as a local NGO that helped female Syrian refugees develop skills.

A 2007 article about Mueller from the same local newspaper said she was a student at Northern Arizona University and was active in the Save Darfur Coalition.

On Sunday, Obama said the U.S. was "deploying all the assets that we can" to find Mueller.

"We are in very close contact with the family trying to keep them updated," he said in an interview with NBC's Today Show. "Obviously this is something that is heart-breaking for the family and we want to make sure we do anything we can to make sure that any American citizen is rescued from this situation."

Mueller's identity had not been disclosed until now out of fears for her safety.

Jordan, which is part of a U.S.-led coalition bombing Islamic State group targets in Syria, stepped up its attacks after IS announced it had killed the Jordanian pilot, Lt. Muath al-Kasaesbeh.

The Syrian government said Thursday that dozens of Jordanian fighter jets had bombed Islamic State training centers and weapons storage sites. It did not say where the attacks occurred.

The Jordanian military said that Jordanian jetfighters carried out "a series of attacks today and destroyed the targets and returned safely." It did not elaborate or give a location for the airstrikes.

But activists who monitor the Syrian conflict from inside the country said U.S.-led coalition planes hit several targets on the edges and outskirts of Raqqa, in quick succession on Friday.

A Raqqa-based collective of anti-IS activists known as "Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently" said the planes targeted multiple IS positions and headquarters in the western and eastern countryside of Raqqa, sending columns of smoke into the sky. Explosions could be heard in the city. The collective said there were no recorded civilian casualties, and did not mention IS casualties.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said dozens of IS members were killed in coalition airstrikes that targeted a tanks-and-vehicles depot in the area of al-Madajen and at least six other IS positions, including a training camp and a prison.

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Associated Press writers Julie Pace in Washington and Karin Laub in Amman, Jordan, contributed to this report.

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