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American journalist and her mother murdered by suspected Assad regime agents in Turkey

American journalist and her mother murdered by suspected Assad regime agents in Turkey
© Getty Images

An American-born journalist and her mother, both active in the Syrian opposition, were found murdered in Istanbul on Thursday.

Halla Barakat and her mother Orouba Barakat were strangled and stabbed to death in the Turkish city earlier this week, according to an ABC News report, and doused with a chemical agent to slow decomposition.

Police told ABC that they are investigating the killings but have made no arrests and have no suspects. Other soures, however, said agents of Syria's government may be responsible.

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Orouba Barakat was an active and outspoken member of the Syrian Opposition Council, an international group opposed to the Assad regime.

The two were friends of Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) hostage Kayla Mueller, an aid worker in Syria who was abducted from a hospital in 2013. The Barakats were active in lobbying the Obama administration for more decisive action to secure the release of Mueller, whom they met while aiding Syrian refugees in Turkey.

Weeks after her abduction, Mueller left a voicemail on Orouba Barakat's phone asking for help. The lobbying efforts were unsuccessful, and Mueller was reportedly killed in an airstrike in February 2015.

Mueller's parents told ABC in a statement that they were "numb" after hearing the news of the Barakats deaths.

"We don't know what to say, we are numb and do not understand how anyone could do this to our gracious and beautiful friends. Orouba and Halla were like a mother and sister to Kayla. They never gave up on saving her," Mueller's parents said Friday.

"Our hearts break for Orouba, Halla and their family and friends, all those they loved and all who loved them."