American aid worker Kayla Mueller defied her ISIS captors by refusing to convert to Islam and even turned down an opportunity to escape to help save Yazidi sex slaves.
The heartbreaking and heroic details of Mueller's 18 months in captivity in Syria have been revealed by former hostages and one escaped Yazidi girl who spoke to ABC.
Mueller was taken from a Doctor's Without Borders vehicle near Aleppo in 2013 before being tortured, ransomed and then taken as a sex slave by ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi before being killed in an airstrike in early 2015.
Daniel Rye Ottosen, a Danish freelance photographer, recalled how Mueller was paraded in front of the other prisoners as an example by ISIS butcher Jihadi John.
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Daniel Rye Ottosen, a Danish freelance photographer, recalled how Kayla stood up to her ISIS captors, refusing to convert to Islam despite the daily horror she endured
Ottosen said the terrorist, who real name was Mohammed Emwazi, told the captives: 'She is much stronger than you guys. She's much smarter. She converted to Islam.'
Interrupting her captors, Ottosen recalls Kayla saying: 'No I didn't.'
He added: 'I would not have had the guts to say that. I don't think so.
'It was very clear that all of us were impressed by the strength that she showed in front of us. That was very clear.'
That was in May 2014 while Mueller was being held in an oil refinery, one of the few times during her captivity that she had contact with other prisoners.
For most of her ordeal, Mueller was kept in isolation, beaten, verbally abused, physically tortured or raped on an almost daily basis.
A Yazidi girl held with Mueller recalled how she offered her the chance to escape, but Mueller refused because she feared putting the group in danger
Later that same year, after being transferred to oil and gas emir Abu Sayyaf's compound, a Yazidi sex slave who calls herself Julia, recalled how she concocted an escape plan and begged Mueller to come with her.
The girl, who was just 13 at the time, said: 'I told Kayla, "We want to escape," and I asked her to come with us.
'She told me, "No, because I am American. If I escape with you, they will do everything to find us again."
'It is better for you to escape alone. I will stay here.'
The hostages have also cast doubt on statements given by Doctors Without Borders (also known as Medecins Sans Frontieres, or MSF) about messages passed to Mueller's family.
Despite the fact that Mueller did not work for MSF, the organization was heavily involved in negotiation efforts for her release because she had been staying inside one of their compounds immediately before being captured.
Her boyfriend, Omar Alkhani, had also been working for MSF as a contractor. He was released after two months having been beaten.
Mueller also was held with three women who worked for the aid organization before they were released in 2014.
Two of those women, named for the first time by ABC as Frida Saide and Patricia Chavez, recalled how Mueller gave them two notes to take back home as they left.
One note Mueller had been forced to write by her ISIS captors containing their demands for her release - a prisoner exchange for al-Qaeda operative Aafia Siddiqui from a U.S. federal prison or 5 million euros.
Ottosen (pictured during his captivity) recalled Mueller was paraded in front of the other prisoners who were told she had converted to Islam, before she said: 'No, I didn't'
Mueller was captured by ISIS in 2013 after going to Syria with boyfriend Omar Alkhani (left), who was a contractor for MSF, and spent 18 months in captivity before being killed
During her final months Mueller was held here, the home of Abu Sayaff, as a sex slave who was repeatedly raped by ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi
The second note, which Mueller penned in secret, was similarly worded but had important contact information written on the back including for friend and college spiritual adviser, Rev. Kathleen Day of Flagstaff's Northern Arizona University.
Saide and Chavez were also told to memorize an email address which would be used to negotiate for Mueller's release.
While the women were released in March 2014, it was not until April that MSF staff passed along the smuggled note to Mueller's parents, and May before they were given the ISIS-ordered letter and email address.
In a statement yesterday, MSF officials said they withheld the information out of fear it would put other captives at risk, and said Mueller herself had requested that the ISIS-ordered letter not be handed over.
But Saide and Chavez, who had no idea any information was being kept from the family, say Mueller never discussed withholding any of the letters with them.
The women, along with a third former captive whose name has not yet been released, also blasted MSF for not mentioning the fact that Mueller and Alkhani were abducted from one of the charity's vehicles just months before they arrived in Syria.
Jihadi John, later unmasked as Mohammed Emwazi, was one of four British men nicknamed as 'The Beatles' who guarded the prisoners (right, Baghdadi, who took Mueller for a wife)
Saide recalls that, during a safety briefing they received after arriving in the country in 2013, they were told that the kidnap risk to MSF staff was 'low' and 'not something we should worry about.'
Eventually negotiations did begin for Mueller's release, but by that time America had launched a bombing campaign against the jihadis, causing talks to flounder.
Later that year Mueller was transferred to Sayyaf's compound where she was kept with the Yazidis as a sex slave, and repeatedly raped by the group's spiritual leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who took her for a wife.
Mueller died in early 2015 as the result of an airstrike on Sayyaf's compound.
While exact information about her death is unclear, ISIS claimed the raid was carried out by the Jordanian air force.
Yesterday an ISIS hostage video of Mueller was revealed – showing the aid worker pleading for help from captivity.
Mueller is only seen from the chest up, wearing a green shirt and with her hair covered with a black hijab.
Clearly in distress, she says: ‘My name is Kayla Mueller. I need your help.
‘I’ve been here too long and I’ve been very sick and it’s it’s very terrifying here.’
The 10-second clip ends before she reveals where ‘here’ is – but Mueller was filmed for the proof-of-life video by ISIS militants in Syria which was handed to her parents by the FBI on August 20, 2013, ABC News reports.
The Muellers (above) said they trusted non-governmental organizations 'like sheep'
Mueller, from Prescott, Arizona, is pictured with her family and pets as a youngster
‘You just go into almost a catatonic state, I think. You can’t even stand up,’ her father Carl Mueller told Brian Ross about his reaction to seeing his daughter in the video three years ago.
In an interview to air on 20/20 on Friday, her mother Marsha also spoke of her heartbreak at seeing her daughter as a helpless hostage.
‘I saw how thin she looked but I saw that her eyes were very clear and steady,’ she said. ‘It broke my heart but I also saw her strength.’
The 22-megabyte video was sent to a friend of the aid worker, who passed it on to authorities, who then handed it over to her parents.
Chris Voss, a retired hostage negotiator for the FBI, looked at the clip provided by ABC.
He said ISIS would have rehearsed and filmed this brief clip a number of times to get it right and put makeup on Mueller to make her appear in good health.
‘They want to put enough out there to start a negotiation. And that's what this is intended to do,’ he told ABC.
But although the video was received by the Muellers within weeks of their daughter’s capture, they didn’t begin negotiations for 10 months.
They pinned their hopes on the non-governmental aid groups their daughter had worked for, including the Danish Refugee Council, Support to Life and the NGO Forum.
Mueller was taken hostage with her boyfriend, Omar Alkhani (pictured together) in August 2013 after leaving a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Aleppo
Mueller had been held in captivity for 18 months, and kept as a sex slave in a Syrian dungeon
They said the groups told them the government has stepped in to help and would bring their daughter home safe.
Carl Mueller told ABC that his family trusted them all ‘like sheep.’
The Muellers have said that Support to Life was helpful, but a small organization that couldn’t handle a hostage case.
They blasted Doctors Without Borders for refusing to help negotiate – even though she was taken from a vehicle belonging to the charity.
Marsha and Carl Mueller said the group withheld vital information about their daughter they had gotten from freed hostages who worked for the organization.
The group has said it 'made a decision to share the email address at a later time out of concern for the safety of still-detained prisoners.'
'We regret the fact that Marsha Mueller had to reach out to us first before we did so; we should have reached out to the family first, and we have apologized to the Muellers for that,' the group has said.
KAYLA MUELLER'S PARENTS BLAST DOCTORS WITHOUT BORDERS
Carl and Marsha Mueller blasted Doctors Without Borders for refusing to help negotiate for their daughter's freedom after she was kidnapped leaving one of their hospitals in Aleppo.
The couple, of Prescott, Arizona, also accused the humanitarian group of withholding an email address which was needed to communicate with her ISIS captors in Syria.
‘Somewhere in a boardroom, they decided to leave our daughter there to be tortured and raped and ultimately murdered,’ Mueller’s father said in an interview with ABC News to air on Friday.
The group admitted that it decided to share the email address at a later time ‘out of concern for the safety of still-detained prisoners.'
But it also said it had no obligation to advocate for someone who did not work for the organization.
The Muellers recorded a phone conversation, provided to ABC, with a senior official with MSF ten months after their daughter was kidnapped – asking the group for help with negotiations.
'No,' the official replied.
'The crisis management team that we have installed for our five people and that managed the case for our people will be closed down in the next week… because our case is closed.'
Mueller's father called Doctors Without Borders a 'fabulous organization and they do wonderful work'.
'But somewhere in a boardroom, they decided to leave our daughter there to be tortured and raped and ultimately murdered.'
MSF called Mueller’s death a ‘terrible and tragic loss,’ but noted that their security policy forbids people from certain countries, including the US, from working at or even visiting the hospital.
They also said that they are not in a position to help with cases that don’t involve their own staff.
It added that staff at the hospital had no ideal that an American was going to turn up.
'She was not expected and no one at the hospital had any indication she was coming,' it said.
'If they had, they would have stated in no uncertain terms that she should not come, or cancelled the visit altogether,' the statement said.
'This was because Aleppo was well known to be a very dangerous place, a city at war (as it remains to this day), where the risk level for westerners, and Americans in particular, was very high.'
However, in a lengthy statement, the organization explained the decisions that were made following Mueller's abduction in August 2013.
'As an organization that works in conflict zones and has had several of our colleagues and friends killed while trying to provide emergency assistance, we know this all too well.
'In this instance, the Muellers asked MSF to actively intervene to help achieve Kayla’s release and we did not do so.
‘There are several reasons for this: The risks go beyond any one location.
'If MSF were generally considered by would-be abductors to be a negotiator of release for non-MSF staff, there is no doubt that this would increase the risk levels in many locations, put our field staff, medical projects, and patients in danger, and possibly force us to close projects where needs are often acute.
Marsha and Carl Mueller (pictured in a video appeal to ISIS) said that although they got had the hostage video in August 2013, they didn't begin negotiations for 10 months
‘It would limit MSF’s ability to provide life-saving care to people caught in dangerous conflicts.
'Furthermore, MSF is an emergency medical organization. We are not hostage negotiators.'
It added: 'There is risk inherent in humanitarian work in conflict, but we rely on people who are willing to take those risks to help us reach people in need around the world.
'It’s awful to know that people like Kayla Mueller, who carried a very similar spirit into the world, died during efforts to reach some of those same people.'
Jason Cone, executive director of MSF-USA, added: 'From everything that I have learned from speaking with Kayla’s parents, Carl and Marsha, and from her passionate writing and advocacy about people in crisis, whether in Darfur, the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Tibet, or India, she exhibited the same incredible compassion and connection to neglected people that I see in my colleagues every day.
'All of us at MSF want to share our condolences and sympathies for the horrific experience that the Mueller family has lived through over the past three years. No one should have to endure such an experience.'
The group has had at least seven staff members taken hostage and released by ISIS – after they helped negotiate ransom payments for some.
But MSF said they had no moral obligation to help Mueller.
'We can't be in the position of negotiating for people who don't work for us,' Cone told ABC. 'I don't think there was a moral responsibility.'
Obama 'broke his promise to donate to Mueller foundation'
President Obama broke his promise to donate to the foundation set up in Kayla Mueller's name, according to her parents.
Obama made the promise to Carl and Marsha Mueller shortly after their daughter was killed while in ISIS captivity last year, they told ABC News.
'I'm still waiting for that donation, Mr President,' Carl Mueller said in the interview, which will be aired Friday on 20/20.
Carl and Marsha Mueller speak with President Obama during a meeting after daughter Kayla was killed in Syria in early 2015
Marsha recalled that the president asked 'what he could do for you' during a private meeting when he went to Phoenix, Arizona, after their daughter's death.
Her husband added that Obama said the donation would be 'anonymous' to the Kayla's Hands foundation and assured them he would follow through.
The president has yet to make the contribution to the Mueller's foundation, but a White House official confirmed to ABC News that he still intends to do so.
In a statement to ABC, the official said: 'The president will continue to support the goals of the organization in different ways, including by making a donation, as pledged to the Mueller family.'
Timeline of Kyyla Mueller's abduction and aftermath
AUGUST 3, 2013: Doctors Without Borders said Kayla Mueller arrived at their hospital in Aleppo from southern Turkey at around 4pm with her boyfriend.
Because Mueller and her boyfriend had arrived late in the day, he didn’t have time to finish his work – and were allowed to stay inside the compound that night because there were limited safe places to stay in the Industrial City neighborhood.
AUGUST 4: Mueller’s boyfriend Omar Alkhani asked staff for help getting back to the city’s bus depot, who arranged for a hired car and driver to take them to the bus depot.
All three occupants of the car were stopped and seized by armed men shortly after leaving the hospital. The driver was released an hour later.
AUGUST 20: The FBI pass along a 10-second hostage video to Mueller’s parents, which had been emailed to a friend of hers.
Sometime in August, Alkhani and an MSF worker were released.
JANUARY 2014: Three women and two men who worked for MSF were abducted by ISIS.
APRIL: The three women were released and later revealed they had been held in the same place as Mueller, who had asked them to smuggle a letter to her parents.
They were also told by their captors to memorize an email address to later use to negotiate Mueller’s release.
MSF passed along the letter and information, but decided to withhold the email address out of concern for the safety of the still-detained prisoners.
MAY 14: Two male prisoners were released.
MAY 23: Email address was handed over to the Muellers so hostage negotiations could begin. MSF apologized that Marsha Mueller had to reach out to them first.
MAY 29: Mueller’s parents received an audio clip and their daughter told them that her kidnappers wanted Dr Aafia Siddiqui’s release in exchange for her and if not, then five million euros.
Then, they heard what would be their daughter’s last spoken word to them: ‘Goodbye.’
SEPTEMBER 2014: Mueller was transferred along with two Kurdish women of Yazidi descent from an Islamic State prison to the custody of Abu Sayyaf, a former Islamic State minister for oil and gas.
OCTOBER 2014: A Yazidi teenager who was held with Mueller who escaped in October said ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdad took Mueller as a 'wife', repeatedly raping her when he visited.
FEBRUARY 6, 2015: Islamic State announce that Mueller was killed when Jordanian fighter jets bombed a building where she was being held, but Jordan expressed doubts about their account of her death.
It remains unclear exactly how she died, but it is believed to be after an airstrike.