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Kayla Mueller: Peace Activist, War Mascot?

In life, Kayla Mueller was a humanitarian and a peacemaker. In death, she's becoming a rallying point for ramped-up military action in the Middle East.

One day after U.S. officials confirmed reports that the 26-year-old Prescott native had been killed in Syria, a captive of the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant, President Barack Obama asked Congress on Wednesday for renewed authorization to use military force against the terrorist group. In a letter introducing the proposal, Obama mentioned her by name along with three other Americans abducted by ISIL in the Middle East.

ISIL beheaded aid worker Abdul-Rahman Peter Kassig and journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff last year. A week ago, the terrorist group announced that Mueller, an aid worker with the Turkish nonprofit Support to Life, died in a Jordanian airstrike. ISIL had been holding her hostage since August 2013, when militants snatched her outside a Spanish Doctors Without Borders hospital in Aleppo.

Plans to intensify strikes in Syria and Iraq have been in the works for months, but Mueller's death "adds urgency" to the debate, Congressman Ruben Gallego (D-Arizona) told New Times.

"Kayla Mueller was a great Arizonan," he said. "Her loss is definitely going to be on our minds as we sift through this decision."

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Elizabeth Stuart
Contact: Elizabeth Stuart