Tags: US | American | Islamic | State
Kayla Mueller's Boyfriend Describes Effort to Free Her

Kayla Mueller's Boyfriend Describes Effort to Free Her

Sunday, 15 February 2015 07:37 PM EST

Kayla Mueller was in a detention cell, face to face with her Syrian boyfriend. Had she told her captors she was married to Omar Alkhani, she might have been freed from the hands of Islamic State militants, he said. Instead, she denied being his wife.

After posing as Mueller's husband and persuading a string of people to let him plead for her release, Alkhani left the room empty-handed. He said he saw her face for just a few seconds when guards uncovered it.

The guards had assured Mueller, 26, that Alkhani would not be harmed if she told the truth, so she apparently stuck to honesty to save him rather than take the slim chance to save herself, he said.

"Since she's American, they would not let her go anyway. No sense to stay here, both of us," Alkhani said. "Maybe she wanted to save me. Maybe she didn't know I came back to save her."

Such was the nature of Mueller, the American hostage from Prescott who was content without new clothes, a hair dryer, makeup and much of the wages she earned as an aid worker so she could give to others.

Alkhani spoke to The Associated Press on Sunday via webcam from Turkey in one of his first interviews, detailing how he met Mueller in 2010 and the last time he saw her in 2013 as a prisoner of the Islamic State group.

The U.S. government and Mueller's family confirmed her death last week.

About 200 people turned out Saturday night at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, where Mueller studied, to honor her.

Mueller and Alkhani were taken hostage in August 2013 after leaving a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Aleppo, Syria, where he was hired to fix the Internet. Mueller had begged him to let her tag along so she could see the suffering firsthand and help, despite the dangers of traveling into the war-torn region. He said he agreed reluctantly.

"We argued about it," he said. "In the end, I was afraid if she didn't go with me, she would go with someone else."

Mueller took advantage of an unexpected overnight stay at the hospital when the Internet repairs took longer than expected and asked Syrian women about how they managed daily life. During what should have been a 10-minute trip to the bus station the next day, Mueller, Alkhani, the taxi driver and a fourth person were ambushed and forced out of the vehicle at gunpoint and threatened with death.

Mueller remained a hostage, while Alkhani was released a couple of months later after being beaten and interrogated about his work as a photographer, his religion and his relationship to Mueller, he said.

Against the advice of his friends, Alkhani said he returned to Syria from Turkey to try and get back the woman he met in Cairo when she responded to an advertisement he posted to house international visitors. He said he didn't want to break his promise to Mueller that he would look out for her.

A spokesperson for Mueller's family said they didn't have any reason not to trust Alkhani's account.

"They know that he deeply cared for her, and when he went back to try and rescue her by posing as her boyfriend, they knew he was taking extreme risks to do that," the spokesperson said Sunday. The spokesperson talked to the AP on condition of anonymity because the person works in media relations for other families in Middle East hostage situations and wants to remain anonymous for safety reasons.

© Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


GlobalTalk
Kayla Mueller was in a detention cell, face to face with her Syrian boyfriend. Had she told her captors she was married to Omar Alkhani, she might have been freed from the hands of Islamic State militants, he said. Instead, she denied being his wife.
US, American, Islamic, State
590
2015-37-15
Sunday, 15 February 2015 07:37 PM
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