Kayla Mueller, 26, an American humanitarian worker from Prescott, Arizona is pictured in this undated handout photo.
Photo by The Mueller Family/Handout/Reuters

Mueller’s boyfriend: Kayla chose to protect me instead of saving herself

Updated

When slain ISIS hostage Kayla Mueller was given an opportunity to lie for a chance at freedom, the 26-year-old American aid worker allegedly chose to tell the truth to protect her boyfriend rather than put his life in danger.

Mueller’s boyfriend, Omar Alkhani, posed as her husband when he visited her in a Syrian detention cell in 2013. Had she pretended they were married, she might have been freed from her ISIS captors, Alkhani told The Associated Press on Sunday. But the guards allegedly told Mueller that Alkhani wouldn’t be harmed if she told the truth, so she chose honesty over the possibility of saving herself.

RELATED: American ISIS hostage Kayla Mueller is dead, family says

Since her capture a year and a half ago, Mueller’s family requested that little be publicized about her, for fear that putting her name in the press would endanger her life. But last week, after the U.S. government and Mueller’s family confirmed her death, friends and family remembered the young woman as a joyful and empathetic person who believed in making the world a better place.

Mueller, of Prescott, Arizona, was captured in August 2013 in Syria, where she had traveled to continue her lifelong dedication to humanitarian work. Prior to traveling to Syria, she worked with aid organizations in India, Israel, and Palestinian territories. In July of last year, Mueller was among the U.S. hostages Army Delta Force commandos tried to rescue in an operation in Raqqa.

Alkhani told the AP that he met Mueller in 2010, when she responded to an advertisement he posted to house international visitors. He saw her for the last time in 2013 as an ISIS prisoner. He and Mueller were both taken hostage after leaving a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Aleppo, Syria. Alkhani had been hired to fix the hospital’s Internet connection, he said, and Mueller begged him to let her go with him so she could witness people’s suffering firsthand and help.

“We argued about it,” he reportedly told the news service. “In the end, I was afraid if she didn’t go with me, she would go with someone else.” Days later, Mueller and Alkhani were among four people who were ambushed at gunpoint and threatened with death during what should have been a 10-minute trip to the bus station.

Alkhani eventually was released, while Mueller remained a hostage. He said he remembered feeling reassured when they were captives together because they could communicate with each other through coughs or see each other by looking under a door to see her feet.

RELATED: A letter from American ISIS hostage Kayla Mueller

Alkhani’s attempt to save Mueller in 2013 was part of a promise he made that he would always look out for her.

“I didn’t realize one day I will receive this call from somebody telling me, ‘I am sorry,’” he said.

Since 2014, the terrorist group ISIS – also known as ISIL or the Islamic State – has publicly executed several high-profile hostages, including two American journalists, James Foley and Steven Sotloff; American aid worker Peter Kassig; two British aid workers, David Haines and Alan Henning; two Japanese captives, Haruna Yukawa and Kenji Goto, a journalist; and Jordanian pilot Lt. Muath al-Kaseasbeh.

President Barack Obama last week asked Congress to vote on a new Authorization for Use of Military Force to fight ISIS. His proposed authorization would last for three years and would have no geographical limitations.

On Sunday, ISIS released a video purportedly showing the beheading of 21 Egyptian Christians in Libya. The footage shows a line of men in orange jumpsuits being led along a beach, forced to their knees, and beheaded. The Egyptian government declared the video authentic.

Less than 12 hours after the release of the footage, the Egyptian military carried out airstrikes in Libya in retaliation, reportedly killing as many as 50 militants.

ISIS, Islamic State of Iraq and Syria and Kayla Mueller

Mueller's boyfriend: Kayla chose to protect me instead of saving herself

Updated