Slain ISIS leader may have held American hostage

Slain ISIS leader may have held American hostage
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The Islamic State leader killed by U.S. forces in Syria over the weekend may have held American Kayla Mueller hostage at one point before she was killed, intelligence officials suspect.

U.S. spies are currently examining whether or not Mueller — whose death was announced in February — was ever held captive by the senior Tunisian commander in the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

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“We are looking into” the connection, House Intelligence Committee ranking member Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) confirmed to reporters at a Tuesday breakfast briefing sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor.

“At this point, I don’t have anything to share on that,” he added.

The possible connection, which was first reported by ABC News over the weekend, would clarify the still murky final days of Mueller, who was captured by ISIS after traveling to the region to do humanitarian work. ISIS militants claimed that she was killed in a Jordanian airstrike targeting ISIS, though the Obama administration has been more circumspect.

The 26-year-old was the fourth American killed in ISIS’s custody.

Over the weekend, the White House revealed that special operations forces had killed the ISIS leader — who went by the nom de guerre Abu Sayyaf — and captured his wife during a daring raid into Syrian territory. Abu Sayyaf is believed to have played a key role overseeing the extremist group’s massive oil and gas operations, which have helped to finance its operations in Iraq and Syria.

U.S. officials are currently interrogating the man’s wife, known as Umm Sayyaf, and are digging through any intelligence obtained from the scene.   

“We are currently debriefing the detainee to obtain intelligence about ISIL operations,” White House spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan said in a statement, using an alternate acronym for ISIS. “We are also working to determine any information she may have regarding hostages — including American citizens who were held by ISIL.” 

On Tuesday, U.S. officials told news outlets that Abu Sayyaf’s full name was Fathi Ben Awn Ben Jildi Murad al-Tunisi. 

During the weekend mission, U.S. forces also took control of a young Yezidi woman who appeared to have been held as a slave by the couple. The administration intends to reunite her with her family, it has said.