Kayla Mueller's family remains hopeful

Kayla Mueller and her mother Marsha smile in this undated family photo. Islamic State militants claimed Friday that Kayla was killed in a Jordanian airstrike in the northern Syrian city of Raqqa, but no evidence of her death has been released. <br /><br /><!-- 1upcrlf2 -->

Kayla Mueller and her mother Marsha smile in this undated family photo. Islamic State militants claimed Friday that Kayla was killed in a Jordanian airstrike in the northern Syrian city of Raqqa, but no evidence of her death has been released. <br /><br /><!-- 1upcrlf2 -->

PRESCOTT - The parents of Kayla Jean Mueller, 26, of Prescott say they aren't giving up hope that their daughter may still be alive, despite claims from Islamic State militants that she was killed Friday, Feb. 6, in a Jordanian airstrike in the northern Syrian city of Raqqa.

"To those in positions of responsibility for holding Kayla, in adherence to your warnings and out of concern for Kayla's safety, we have been silent until now," Mueller's parents, Carl and Marsha, wrote in a statement released to media late Friday. "After going to extraordinary efforts to keep Kayla's name out of the media for so long, by securing the cooperation of journalists throughout the world, her name was released today."

The Daily Courier was among the news organizations that knew of the kidnapping, but honored the family's request to not publish that information until it became public Friday.

Yavapai County Sheriff's Office is working with the FBI to provide "ongoing security for the family," according to Sheriff's Office spokesman Dwight D'Evelyn.

He said the FBI is at the family's home acting as a direct liaison for updates on Mueller's status.

On Saturday, The Daily Courier contacted friends of the family, but all declined to comment, deferring to the family's requests.

"The family continues to decline media inquiries at this time," D'Evelyn said. "Specific security issues are obviously not stated in a public forum."

He pointed out that the road just outside Prescott city limits where the family lives is narrow, so keeping it free from unnecessary traffic is vital for access by emergency services if needed.

Mueller, an aid worker who had spent time in India, Israel and Palestine, has been missing since Aug. 4, 2013, when she was reportedly kidnapped by Islamic State militants while leaving a hospital in Allepo, Syria, some 130 miles west of Raqqa.

She is the only known remaining U.S. hostage held by the Islamic State. If reports of her death are confirmed, she would be the fourth American to be killed while held prisoner by the Islamic State.

The other three Americans are journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, and aid worker Peter Kassig. All three were beheaded.

The official response from U.S. and Jordanian government leaders was skepticism of the reported claims by the Islamic State. U.S. officials said the claim is unconfirmed - there is no evidence of Mueller's death - and officials in Jordan called it "criminal propaganda."

Mueller's parents said the news Friday left them concerned. However, they said, "We are still hopeful that Kayla is alive."

Their statement indicated they had contacted Mueller's captors privately and asked for a private response.

"We know that you have read our previous communications; John Cantlie made references to them in October," the family said.

Cantlie is a British war photographer captured along with Foley by the Islamic State in November 2012. He is featured in a series of propaganda films purportedly released by Islamic State militants in late 2014.

In the films, Cantlie said British and American prisoners were not released because their governments did not negotiate with their captors, in accordance with the official U.S. and British policies against negotiating with terrorists.

In one film, Cantlie read excerpts of messages claimed to have been sent by the families of British and American prisoners. He said the prisoners had a sense of community and even some recreation.

However, as he was speaking in a propaganda film, it's unclear whether his statements were truthful.

Mueller's family alluded to the claims by the Islamic State related to prisoner treatment.

"You told us that you treated Kayla as your guest; as your guest, her safety and wellbeing remains your responsibility," Mueller's family said. They said they "have been doing everything we can to get her released safely."

Follow reporter Les Bowen on Twitter @NewsyLesBowen