The U.S. military operation that resulted in the death of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was named after a woman with family ties to the Wabash Valley.
Kayla Mueller, whose mother is a Paris, Illinois, native now living in Prescott, Arizona, was a 26-year-old humanitarian aid worker who was kidnapped, held hostage and tortured by ISIS and abused by Baghdadi himself.
The kidnapping occurred in August 2013 after she left a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Aleppo, Syria.
In February 2015, it was confirmed that she had died in ISIS custody, but her body has not been recovered.
Kayla's mother, Marsha Elledge Mueller, is a Paris native and a 1970 graduate of Paris High School. Several of Kayla Mueller's relatives still live in the Paris area.
Marsha Mueller told the Arizona Republic on Sunday, “I still want to know, ‘Where is Kayla?’ and what truly happened to her and what aren’t we being told ... Someone knows, and I’m praying with all my heart that someone in this world will bring us those answers.”
Marsha and husband Carl praised the Trump administration and the soldiers who pulled off the mission, according to the Republic.
"We are so grateful for them ... we are so grateful," Marsha Mueller told the publication. They were glad there was no loss of life on the U.S. side and grateful their daughter and the others tortured and killed by ISIS have not been forgotten.
Carl Mueller told the Republic that his daughter had been held in many prisons. "She was held in solitary confinement. She was tortured. She was intimidated. She was ultimately raped by al-Baghdadi himself." He said Baghdadi "either killed her or was complicit in her murder."
In 2015, after Kayla's Mueller's death had been confirmed, a brief community service was conducted at the Illinois National Guard Armory in Paris, Illinois, in her memory.
At that time, Terri Crippes, Kayla's aunt, described her niece as "generous, caring and compassionate like our sister, Marsha ... She was strong, driven and passionate like our brother-in-law, Carl." She also described Kayla as someone with a "quiet, calming presence. She was a free spirit."
The free and generous spirit took Kayla on missions to help the less fortunate in different parts of the world: India, Israel and Turkey, where she assisted Syrian refugees.
On Sunday, Robert O'Brien, national security adviser, told NBC's Meet the Press the operation was named for Kayla, whom he described as "a humanitarian, great young American, idealistic, young girl."
Officials decided to name the operation after Kayla "after what she had suffered. And that was something that people should know," O'Brien said.
Trump announced Sunday that Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State group, died after U.S. special operators cornered him during a raid in Syria.
Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or at email@example.com Follow Sue on Twitter @TribStarSue.