WASHINGTON — The wife of a now-deceased Islamic State leader has been charged for her alleged role in last year’s death of American aid worker Kayla Jean Mueller.
Nisreen Assad Ibrahim Bahar, 25, the widow of former ISIS leader Abu Sayyaf, allegedly conspired to provide support to the terrorist group, often forcibly holding Mueller in the couple’s homes where she was subjected to repeated sexual abuse by ISIS chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Mueller died in February 2015.
Bahar, also known as Umm Sayyaf, “knew how Mueller was treated by Baghdadi when Mueller was held against her will in Sayyaf’s home,” federal prosecutors said when the charges were announced Monday (Feb. 8).
“The Sayyafs held young women who were sold or traded to ISIL men, and the women were characterized as being owned by the ISIL (another acronym for the Islamic State) men who acquired them,” the government documents allege. While Mueller, who was kidnapped in 2013 by ISIL soldiers, was being held with two other women, Umm Sayyaf allegedly threatened them, asserting that she would “kill them if they did not listen to her.”
Umm Sayyaf, now being held on terror-related charges in Iraq, allegedly admitted to FBI agents last summer that she was chiefly responsible for Mueller and other hostages while her husband traveled. On those occasions, she acknowledged hosting ISIL members and al-Baghdadi at her home.
“Sayyaf admitted that al-Baghdadi owned Mueller during her captivity at the Sayyaf residence and (she) admitted that owning is the equivalent of slavery,” prosecutors said.
“We fully support the Iraqi prosecution of Sayyaf and will continue to work with the authorities there to pursue our shared goal of holding Sayyaf accountable for her crimes,” Assistant Attorney General John Carlin said.
If convicted, Sayyaf faces a maximum penalty of life in prison.
(Kevin Johnson writes for USA Today)