Kayla Mueller Was Sexually Assaulted By Top ISIS Leader & The Shocking Trend Of Rape As A Terror Weapon Continues

The story of an American aid worker captured in 2013 and killed while being held captive by militant extremists just became even more tragic. On Friday evening, counterterrorism officials confirmed that 26-year-old Kayla Mueller had been repeatedly raped by Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi during her time as a hostage at the home of Abu Sayyaf, a Tunisian ISIS leader in charge of oil and gas. The report comes just months after Mueller’s parents were informed of her death in February.

The narrative was also supported by two Yazidi girls who had been held captive with Mueller but were later able to escape. According to the girls, who were debriefed by U.S. commandos last November, female hostages were often given to top fighters. Mueller was allegedly part of a much larger sex slave operation primarily made up of Yazidi women.

“They told us that he married her, and we all understand what that means,” said Mueller’s father, Carl. Her mother, Marsha, added that Mueller had been taken to a back room where she was “abused and came back crying."

The reports confirmed that Umm Sayyaf, wife of the deceased Abu Sayyaf, was captured by U.S. forces back in May. Umm Sayyaf told officials that Mueller had been “owned” by al-Baghdadi and that he had brought her to the Sayyaf household himself. Umm Sayyaf was turned over to Iraqi Kurds for trial.

ISIS leaders have been known to use rape as a display of power over female hostages before. In April, Human Rights Watch reported on the sexual violence perpetrated against Yazidi women — when the militant extremist group first took over the Nineveh province in 2014, leaders took several thousand of the religious minority captive, separating the women and adolescent girls from their families. According to 20 separate accounts from women who later escaped, ISIS forces “committed organized rape, sexual assault, and other horrific crimes” such as forced marriage and religious conversion against the women and girls, causing many to attempt suicide as a means of escape.

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One of these young women told The New York Times’ Rukmini Callimachi this week that she had been a victim of the group’s violent assaults, which she claimed were used as a “recruiting” incentive to attract new Islamic State fighters and as a means of punishing those outside of their religion.

“He told me that according to Islam he is allowed to rape an unbeliever,” said the 12-year-old girl, who Callimachi described as being so small that “an adult could circle her waist” with just their two hands. She added that the man had knelt down next to her and prayed before assaulting her.

“He said that by raping me, he is drawing closer to God,” she said.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon confirmed earlier this year that the “shocking trend” of sexual assault had been employed by several terror groups, including Boko Haram in Nigeria, as a way to instill fear and force their captives into submission and conversion by force. He explained that the efforts to destroy such groups were “an essential part of the fight against conflict-related sexual violence.”

For the scores of women in their captivity however, there is little comfort left but each other — a fragile support network that the two Yazidi girls kept hostage with Mueller said kept them safe during their bleakest moments.

“Kayla tried to protect these young girls,” said Marsha Mueller. “She was like a mother to them.”

Images: HazteOir.org/Flickr