WASHINGTON (AP) -- U.S. intelligence agencies are investigating the possibility that the Islamic State militant leader killed Friday was the captor of American hostage Kayla Mueller for a time.
Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House intelligence committee, confirmed the line of inquiry at a breakfast with reporters Tuesday, but declined further comment. ABC News first reported that U.S. officials believe Mueller, whose death was announced in February, spent time in the custody of the Tunisian Islamic State finance man known as Abu Sayyaf.
Kayla Jean Mueller -- ISIS Hostage, Kayla Mueller
US looking into whether hostage was kept by IS leader
Courtesy: Mueller Family
#Obama confirms death of American #ISIS #hostage Kayla Mueller; Private Message from ISIS sent to Parents of ISIS Hostage, Kayla Mueller, Confirms Her Death http://read.bi/16QUgjt
Statement from the White House on the death of Kayla Mueller
Parents of #ISIS hostage Kayla Mueller urge her captors to contact them. http://t.co/oYOzFBF62r http://t.co/DTkx9od38u
The Mueller family have released new pictures of Kayla. http://t.co/vk7warF4OQ
The parents of American Islamic State (ISIS) hostage Kayla Mueller, who the extremist group claims was killed Friday by a Jordanian airstrike on the Syrian city of Raqqa, are hopeful that their daughter is still alive. Carl and Marsha Mueller said in a statement on Friday, "This news leaves us concerned, yet, we are still hopeful that Kayla is alive." Mueller's parents urged ISIS to contact them privately, and to treat their daughter as a guest.
.@ejmontini: For Kayla Mueller's family, waiting is not a game http://t.co/TvtOCrgFJv http://t.co/GEaSQNdKKv
Prescott stricken by loss, uncertainty of Kayla Mueller's fate. via @RebekahLSanders
Family, others kept Kayla Mueller's capture a secret to protect her, @KarenBrown3TV reports http://t.co/bHlvjWYAqw http://t.co/noUUfRUS6m
Family of hostage Kayla Mueller breaks silence after #IslamicState claims: http://t.co/Dv5w7uOFwW | http://t.co/iSNja0KShX
JUST IN: ISIS sent Muellers an e-mail saying their daughter was dead and included a photo, David Martin reports; cause of death inconclusive
A local Palestinian man holds up a poster of slain ISIS hostage Kayla Mueller who worked in Palestine and was an activist with the International Solidarity Movement- a movement dedicated to supporting a free Palestinian state. In the Palestinian West Bank village of Bilin, west of Ramallah, the 10th anniversary of the popular resistance movement against the Israeli occupation was held on Friday afternoon. Israeli soldiers invaded the village on Friday, stopping protesters from marching into the olive orchards. Israeli soldiers assaulted Palestinians and international activists, beating them, spraying them with a chemical orange agent, as well as using hundreds of tear gas canisters. Live ammunition rounds were also fired at protesters, including sound bombs thrown at the feet of journalists. Journalists who were filming the protests were assaulted by Israeli soldiers as well. The village gained global notoriety when a decade ago locals as well as international activists would gather and organize weekly protests on Fridays, marching towards olive orchards and lands that were confiscated by the Israeli government to build illegal settlements and the separation barrier in the West Bank. The village gained even more popularity after one of its locals, Emad Burnat, filmed the Oscar-nominated film, Five Broken Cameras in which he showed the struggle of the Palestinian village against Israeli aggression. Scores of people, both Palestinian and international have been injured during weekly protests, the most infamous of whom was Basem Au Rahma who was killed in 2009 when a tear gas canister struck him in the chest. Two years later, in 2011, Jawaher Abu Rahma also died during a weekly protest after being hit with a tear gas canister. (Photo by Anna Ferensowicz/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Palestinian protesters hold placard to protest against 'terrorism' on February 13, 2015 before a demonstration against Jewish settlements in the West Bank village of Bilin, west of Ramallah. The poster shows a picture of US aid worker Kayla Mueller, who died as a hostage of Islamic State (IS) group jihadists. (Photo credit ABBAS MOMANI/AFP/Getty Images)
Palestinian protesters hold placard to protest against 'terrorism' on February 13, 2015 before a demonstration against Jewish settlements in the West Bank village of Bilin, west of Ramallah. The posters show pictures of US aid worker Kayla Mueller, who died as a hostage of Islamic State (IS) group jihadists. (Photo credit ABBAS MOMANI/AFP/Getty Images)
A U.S. official on Tuesday said Sayyaf's real name was Fathi ben Awn ben Jildi Murad al-Tunisi.
Murad was killed Friday during a rare ground operation in Islamic State-held territory in Syria by Delta Force operators. His wife, known as Umm Sayyaf, was taken into custody and is being interrogated, U.S. officials say. She is cooperative and providing "a trove" of intelligence, said a Congressional official briefed on the matter.
Intelligence analysts are also sifting through reams of electronic data seized at the site, the official said.
Murad had a number of aliases, the U.S. official said, but officials believe that Murad is his real name. Murad is believed to be the Islamic State's head of oil operations.
Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.
The Islamic State group said Mueller was killed in a Jordanian air strike, but U.S. officials have cast doubt on that assertion. Mueller and her Syrian boyfriend were taken hostage in August 2013 after leaving a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Aleppo, Syria. The boyfriend was later released.
White House spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan declined to address the issue.
"We are currently debriefing the detainee to obtain intelligence about ISIL operations," she said. "We are also working to determine any information she may have regarding hostages - including American citizens who were held by ISIL."
A U.S. official also provided more details on the Friday night raid.
The commandos who flew by Black Hawk and V-22 Osprey aircraft into Syria under cover of darkness quickly met resistance on the ground. They blew a hole in the building where Murad was believed to be staying and as they ran into the building and up the stairs, they encountered more insurgents. The official said that at that point the U.S. forces battled in close quarters combat, including some hand-to-hand fighting.
The goal of the mission, which had undergone months of planning, was to take Murad and his wife alive, in the hopes that he would provide intelligence on the group's operations, finances and information on who they do business with and potentially on their leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Another part of the plan was to free an 18-year-old girl who is a Yazidi and was believed to have been kept as a slave by the Islamic State leader and his wife.
The girl was found and freed by the commandos and is expected to be returned to her family after she is debriefed by the U.S.
A team from U.S. intelligence agencies is poring over the laptops, cellphones, computer drives and other data recovered at the site.