When Kayla Mueller, a 26-year-old a humanitarian aid worker from Prescott, Arizona, was kidnapped by ISIS in 2013, the group didn’t yet have international name recognition. Three years later, her parents are still searching for answers about why non-governmental organization and the U.S. government didn’t do more to bring their daughter back to safety. In the above ABC News interview, Mueller’s parents reveal their quest to find out more about their daughter’s ordeal.
Mueller was kidnapped from a Médecins Sans Frontières (also known as Doctors Without Borders) vehicle. However, MSF refused to help Mueller’s parents, Carl and Marsha Mueller, rescue their daughter from captivity and claimed that she was not working for them. “They’re a fabulous organization. They do wonderful work,” Carl Mueller said of MSF in on ABC’s 20/20. “But somewhere in a boardroom they decided to leave our daughter there to be tortured and raped.”
For 17 months, her parents were in direct communication with the Islamic State, sending their own videos to the terrorist organization to plead for their daughter’s release. Mueller’s parents exchanged 27 emails with their daughter’s captors in Syria. At one point, her ISIS captors sent a video of Mueller, who stands against a white wall with make up and lighting meticulously arranged. “I’ve been here too long, and I’ve been very sick,” she says. “It’s very terrifying here.”
At one point, ISIS requested a 6 million dollar ransom by a 30-day deadline. However and following a failed U.S. rescue mission, the Muellers claim that government officials threatened them with criminal prosecution if they tried to raise money for their daughter’s ransom. Eighteen months after being kidnapped, Mueller died in ISIS captivity. Her captors claim Mueller died in a Jordanian airstrike; the White House denies that that is the case but confirmed her death on February 10, 2015.
On Saturday, Mueller’s parents cut the ribbon on a new playground that was erected in her honor in Prescott. Arizona Senator John McCain, himself a survivor of torture as a Vietnam War POW, came to the opening to deliver emotional remarks. “I didn’t know Kayla but I sense in every account of her ordeal, the true meaning of humility,” McCain said. “She lived her life for others, she used her hands to relieve suffering. She was not just sympathetic to the plight of the less fortunate, she was moved to action. Her fellow captives spoke of her as an inspiration. Brave and defiant when she was abused and threatened, consoling and selfless to those who shared her suffering.”