WASHINGTON (ChurchMilitant.com) - President Trump is honoring a Christian martyr by naming the mission to kill a top ISIS leader and her captor after her.
In an address at the White House on Sunday, Trump announced that Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was killed in a special forces raid in Syria while he and his security team watched.
Also on Sunday, National Security Advisor Robert O'Brien told NBC's "Meet the Press" that the mission was named in honor of Kayla Mueller, captured while working in Syria in 2013. Mueller spent 18 months in captivity at the hands of al-Baghdadi before she was murdered in 2015.
"Think of the things he did to Kayla," Trump said in his address. "She was a beautiful woman, beautiful young woman, helped people. She was there to help people."
Trump added, "And he saw her and he thought she was beautiful and he brought her into captivity for a long period of time and then he killed her. He was an animal. And he was a gutless animal."
In his address to reporters, Trump described al-Baghdadi's final moments. He "died like a dog," Trump said, "whimpering and crying and screaming," like a coward.
The canine is recovering from its injuries and is back on active duty.
The ISIS leader's capture was a top priority for the Trump administration — proof of that was the $25 million bounty the U.S. was offering for al-Baghdadi's capture.
Several witnesses to Mueller's treatment by her captives testified to her strength, selflessness and unwavering faith.
During almost all of her 18-month captivity, she was kept in solitary confinement. During one six-week period in 2014, she was held with other Western hostages in an abandoned oil refinery in Syria.
In an interview with ABC News, those witnesses detailed Mueller's abuse. She suffered prolonged isolation, sensory deprivation, stress positions, forced labor, verbal abuse and sexual assault. She was reportedly raped repeatedly by al-Baghdadi himself.
At one point, Mueller was paraded in front of the Western male prisoners as an example of a Muslim convert. One of those hostages, Daniel Rye Ottosen, a Danish photographer, said he was surprised by her response.
Speaking to ABC News, he relayed what his captors said: "Oh, this is Kayla, and she has been held all by herself. And she is much stronger than you guys. And she's much smarter. She converted to Islam."
Ottosen said she refused, saying, "No, I didn't."
Kayla wrote that she could only write the letter to her family a paragraph at a time because "just the thought of you sends me into a fit of tears." She wrote:
If you could say I have "suffered" at all throughout this whole experience it is only in knowing how much suffering I have put you all through; I will never ask you to forgive me as I do not deserve forgiveness. I remember mom always telling me that all in all, in the end, the only one you really have is God. I have come to a place in experience where, in every sense of the word, I have surrendered myself to our creator b/c literally there was no one else.... + by God + by your prayers I have felt tenderly cradled in freefall. I have been shown in darkness, light + have learned that even in prison, one can be free. I am grateful.
I have come to see that there is good in every situation, sometimes we just have to look for it. I pray each day that if nothing else, you have felt a certain closeness + surrender to God as well + have formed a bond of love + support amongst one another.
While in captivity, Kayla attempted to arrange support for her family and told them they weren't responsible for negotiating her release:
None of us could have known it would be this long but know I am also fighting from my side in the ways I am able + I have a lot of fight left inside of me. I am not breaking down + I will not give in no matter how long it takes.
Kayla ended her letter with: "Please be patient, give your pain to God. I know you would want me to remain strong. That is exactly what I am doing. Do not fear for me, continue to pray as will I + by God's will we will be together soon."
Mueller was confirmed dead in February 2015. ISIS claimed she was killed by a Jordanian airstrike in Syria, but American officials were unable to confirm the circumstances of her death.
11/1/2019 - This article has been updated to reflect that Kayla Mueller did not work for Doctors Without Borders.