President Barack Obama has confirmed what was feared: Kayla Muller, the 26-year-old humanitarian worker is dead. Once more, we are invaded by astonishment and outrage. She was not a combatant, and had nothing to do with Washington’s foreign policy or the airstrikes this country and its allies are launching against the terrorists.
The details and cause of death are unknown, but it is feared that she has been a victim of the fundamentalist group called the Islamic State, born in Iraq and based in Syria, and which controls territories in both countries. [These militants] were holding her hostage.
After college, the young woman originally from Arizona traveled to Turkey’s border with Syria in 2012 to collaborate with a help center for refugees. On Aug. 4, 2013, she was taken prisoner by the Islamic State group when she was leaving a Doctors Without Borders hospital in the Syrian city of Aleppo, where she was a volunteer.
The news of her death was confirmed only days after the Islamic State group made public the murder of a Jordanian pilot, another prisoner, who was set on fire in a cage in front of the cameras, and after two Japanese were beheaded in the same brutal way as three U.S. citizens and two British, for whom their governments refused to pay huge ransoms or allow their families to negotiate.
At least this time we did not see images of so-called “Jihadi John,” the masked man with a British accent who carries out the beheadings in the videos. [He is] the most wanted man in the world: Abdel Majed Abdel-Bary, a rapper originally from Maida Vale in East London who abandoned music to travel to Syria and join the Islamic State group — a political rival of al-Qaida, but with the same ideology.
What started as just another fundamentalist group consisting of members of terrorist cells in extinction has become the most dangerous and powerful militant group in the world. Its leader, the 43-year-old Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, holds a doctorate in Islamic Studies and spent four years in a U.S. prison for insurgents in Iraq, where it is believed he made contacts and strengthened his extremist ideology.
Analysts say that the Islamic State group blossomed thanks to the civil war in Syria, and the power vacuum and weapons left by Pentagon forces when they abandoned Iraq. The group, which already controls thousands of miles where known authority has evaporated, completely ignores international borders. Its greatest achievement so far has been taking over Mosul in June, the second largest Iraqi city in importance, an act with which it surprised Washington and the world.
The group’s objective is to create a universal Islamic government where Sharia — a particularly strict interpretation of Islam — prevails, not only in religion but every aspect of daily life, an ideal that appeals to many of its fanatic [followers]. In fact, in villages it already controls, the girls are separated from the boys, women are forced to be completely covered in public, music in all its expressions has been forbidden and courts impart a medieval justice.
The Islamic State militants do not lack for money, hence their power and dangerousness. Their funds come from paid ransoms by European governments, extortions, threats, and robberies of banks and stores that handle gold and precious jewels. They have sold archaeological pieces from historic sites and they traffic in oil. A key to the power this group has acquired is that it has known how to recruit and channel the resentment of Iraqi men of the Sunni religion who have been abused and neglected by al-Maliki’s Shiite government, which was imposed and supported by the U.S. until recently.
It is thought that part of the group’s success and great number of combatants that have joined them lies in the fact that it has brought a certain degree of social welfare, medical services and food to populations that were completely marginalized and forsaken by their leaders — but this does not make them any less brutal terrorists. The question is: How much is Washington to blame for the group’s strength, and how will it fight it? So far, it seems that not even Obama knows.