US 'cannot confirm' female Isis hostage is dead, family hold onto hope
Jihadis say stray bomb dropped by Jordan to blame
The US 'cannot confirm' reports from terror group Islamic State (or Isis) claiming an American woman being held hostage in Syria has been killed by Jordanian air strikes.
Kayla Jean Mueller, below, a 26-year-old aid worker from Prescott, Arizona, was allegedly killed in Jordanian strikes outside Raqqa, the de facto capital of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil), yesterday.
A statement called 'The Failed Jordanian Aircraft Killed an American Female Hostage' was published on a militant website commonly used by Isil, along with images showing a damaged three-story building, where they claim the hostage was killed.
No jihadists were killed in the strikes on the site outside Raqqa, which were "continuous on the same location for more than an hour", the statement claims.
Read more: Isis US hostage: Who is Kayla Jean Mueller?
The CIA confirmed it was investigating the report.
A White House spokesman said the US was "deeply concerned" by the reports, but that "we have not at this time seen any evidence" that corroborates the claim.
Kayla's family said they are holding onto the hope that she is still alive.
A statement from her family's representative said: "The suffering of the Syrian refugees drew Kayla to the Turkish/Syrian border... to assist families who had been forced to flee their homes.
"Kayla found this work heartbreaking but compelling; she is extremely devoted to the people of Syria.
"The common thread of Kayla's life has been her quiet leadership and strong desire to serve others.
"When asked what kept her going in her mission, she said: 'I find God in the sufferng eyes reflected in mine. If this is how you are revealed to me, this is how I will forever seek you.'"
Jordan denied the report as a "PR stunt" intended to "drive a wedge between the coalition".
"They tried to cause problems internally in Jordan and haven't succeeded," said Jordanian interior minister Hussein Majali. "They are now trying to drive a wedge between the coalition with this latest low PR stunt."
Strikes against Isil by Jordan's air force were escalated this week in response to the burning to death of a Jordanian pilot by jihadists.
Jordan joined the US-led coalition against Isil late last year. Yesterday, it deployed dozens of fighter jets against Isil targets, which included bombing ammunition depots and training camps, in a mission dubbed Operation Martyr Muath.
The escalation in Jordan's strikes followed a pledge by King Abdullah II to wage a "harsh" war against Isil after the murder of pilot Muath al-Kaseasbeh.
Isil has publicly murdered at least three American hostages in the past year.
Ms Mueller is known to have been held hostage by the group in Syria since August 2013, when she disappeared after driving to Aleppo with her Syrian boyfriend.
She is the only known American hostage in Isil captivity.
A US state department spokesman confirmed that "a number of Americans" were being held hostage overseas.
"We have said that there are a number of Americans being held overseas, including still by the Islamic State. I'm not going to get into further details than that," said Marie Harf.
Meanwhile, in Damascus yesterday, Syrian air force strikes killed at least 82 people in an opposition district outside the capital. The attacks followed a series of rocket launches by rebels that hit the government-controlled centre of the capital, a monitoring group said yesterday. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the war in Syria, said the air force conducted 60 strikes on the Eastern Ghouta district on Thursday and into yesterday.
Eighteen children and 11 fighters were among the dead, it said. High death tolls from air attacks are not rare but the Observatory said the focused barrage was a response to rocket attacks by Islam Army insurgents. Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh said his country's strike against Isil in Syria was just the start of its response to the militant group's immolation of its captured pilot last month.
"It's actually the beginning of our retaliation," Judeh said in an interview with CNN on Thursday. He said his country was "upping the ante" and going after the militants "with everything that we have."
Jordan also released a slickly produced video showing its jets being prepared ahead of the airstrikes on Syria .
The footage, which was broadcast on state TV, shows troops writing Koranic verses and anti-Isil messages on plane-mounted missiles before the fleet of fighter jets are launched from the base.
(© Daily Telegraph London)