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Hostage found good in all

Updated: 2015-02-12 07:39
By Associated Press in Prescott, Arizona (China Daily)

Arizona city mourns death of humanitarian aid worker extremists claimdied in airstrike

Even while being held hostage by Islamic State extremists, Kayla Mueller found good in everything.

She taught her guards how to do crafts and make peace birds out of paper. She stood on her head for exercise in her cramped quarters. And she wrote uplifting letters home despite being a prisoner of a brutal terrorist regime.

 Hostage found good in all

Terri Crippes (left) and Lori Lyon, aunts of Kayla Mueller, talk after giving a statement at a news conference in Prescott, Arizona, on Tuesday. Nancy Wiechec / Reuters

"I have come to see that there is good in every situation, sometimes we just have to look for it," she wrote.

The portrait of the 26-year-old humanitarian aid worker from Prescott, Arizona, came as her death was confirmed on Tuesday by the US government. Family members spoke fondly of her free spirit and efforts to ease the suffering of others as a small memorial of flowers and handwritten notes took shape near a sign calling on people to "Pray for Kayla".

Mueller was captured in August 2013, but her captivity had largely been kept secret in an effort to save her. President Barack Obama said a military operation last summer to recover Mueller failed when rescuers arrived only "a day or two" after the group had been moved.

Arizona Senator John McCain and Representative Paul Gosar, a Republican who represents Prescott, were in close contact with the family and government officials throughout the ordeal.

Gosar told The Arizona Republic that one effort to free Mueller involved a man who traveled to the Syrian prison camp where Mueller was being held. The man told the captors he was Mueller's husband in a ruse designed to free her, Gosar said, but it didn't work.

In her hometown, residents began to honor Mueller on Tuesday. Her family has encouraged people to donate to organizations Mueller would have supported.

Mueller's aunt, Lori Lyon said her niece has touched the hearts of people around the world who want to be more like the globe-trotting aid worker.

"And if that is her legacy and the footprint that she leaves on the world," Lyon said, "that is a wonderful thing."

Jordanian airstrike

From Prescott, Mueller helped raise awareness of HIV and AIDS, and offered comfort at a women's shelter. In Flagstaff, where she attended Northern Arizona University, she protested genocide in Sudan's Darfur region. Her desire to help others stretched beyond Arizona.

"I'm not sure yet how to live in a world without Kayla, but I do know that we're all living in a better world because of her," said a tearful Eryn Street, one of Mueller's closest friends.

The Islamic State group claimed on Friday Mueller had died in a recent Jordanian airstrike. The Pentagon said it doesn't know how she died, but is certain it was not during the airstrike.

Obama pledged to bring Mueller's captors to justice "no matter how long it takes".

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