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The father of Kayla Mueller, who died in the custody of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, says in a new interview that the American government puts policy ahead of the lives of its citizens by refusing to pay ransom for Americans captured by terrorists.

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“We understand the policy about not paying ransom, but on the other hand, any parents out there would understand that you would want anything and everything done to bring your child home,” Carl Mueller told NBC News in an interview being aired this week. “And we tried, and we asked. But they put policy in front of American citizens’ lives. And it didn’t get it changed.”

The policy has come under fire from some in recent months, but the government has maintained it is necessary, because paying ransoms would encourage terrorist groups to kidnap more Americans.

President Obama told BuzzFeed News this year that telling families he cannot pay ransoms is "as tough as anything I do."

"We will do everything we can, short of providing an incentive for future Americans to be caught," he said.

Terrorist groups are increasingly turning to kidnapping to finance their operations.

Mueller's family also said that the decision last summer to trade five prisoners from the detention facility in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, for captive soldier Bowe Bergdahl "made the whole situation worse."

"That made the whole situation worse,” said Eric Mueller, Kayla Mueller's brother. “Because that's when the demands got greater. They got larger. They realized that they had something. They realized that, ‘Well, if they're gonna let five people go for one person, why won't they do this? Or why won't they do that?’ ”