Carl and Marsha Mueller hold candles being lit during a vigil at a candlelight memorial honoring aid worker Kayla Mueller in Prescott, Ariz. on Feb. 18, 2015.
Photo by Deanna Dent/Reuters

Kayla Mueller’s parents say daughter’s boyfriend ‘risked his life’ to save her


The parents of Kayla Mueller, the American aid worker killed while in ISIS captivity, are “absolutely” certain their daughter’s Syrian boyfriend put his life in danger during an attempted rescue.

“Throughout this whole ordeal, there have been very few people that we didn’t doubt at some point, very few that we didn’t doubt they had some other motive or ulterior motive,” Carl Mueller told TODAY’s Savannah Guthrie in an exclusive interview. “We know he risked his life to try and save her.”

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Mueller, 26, was confirmed dead on Feb. 10, four days after ISIS claimed she had been killed in an airstrike in Syria. 

The Muellers said Kayla insisted on going to Syria after her boyfriend, Omar Alkhani, a 33-year-old photographer and activist whom she had known since 2010, was called to help an aid hospital there. The couple agreed to tell people they were married if they ever got captured.

Within 24 hours into their journey, they were abducted by ISIS fighters. Alkhani was released after about a month, but Kayla, viewed as a more valuable prisoner, continued to be detained.

Alkhani later decided to return to Syria to try to rescue Kayla.

“We told him not to do it,” Marsha Mueller said. But Aklhani went anyway, eventually making his way before an ISIS judge and telling him Kayla was his wife.

Kayla refused to go along with the ruse, explaining that Alkhani was her fiancé, not her husband.

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ISIS, Kayla Mueller and Syria

Kayla Mueller’s parents say daughter's boyfriend 'risked his life' to save her