2013 Daily Courier handout photo of American Kayla Mueller in Prescott, Arizona (THE DAILY COURIER/MATT HINSHAW)
A young Yazidi told a court in the United States on Monday that she saw the leader of the Islamic State (IS) group take the young American hostage Kayla Mueller “for the night”.
Member of this ethnic and religious minority persecuted by IS, Lia Mulla gave chilling testimony at the trial of El Shafee el-Sheikh, a jihadist accused of having been part of a trio specializing in the capture and execution Western hostages.
Kayla Mueller, kidnapped in August 2013 in Syria just before her 25th birthday, had for a time been under the supervision of these three British-accented men, nicknamed “the Beatles” by their prisoners, several former European hostages said at the bar. who met her in detention.
Lia Mulla met her a year later after she too was captured by IS jihadists near the Sinjar Mountains in northwestern Iraq.
Placed in the same cell as the American, she said she communicated “mainly with her hands and a few Arabic words”, but only in the absence of their guards who had forbidden them to exchange.
For about a week, they were prisoners in “a red house”, under the control of a couple, “Abou Sayef and Oum Sayef”. “She treated us like slaves”, “he terrified us by showing us beheading videos and threatening us with weapons.”
– “The dirty house” –
The situation got even worse when they were moved, along with another young Yazidi woman, to “the dirty house”, she said.
The federal court in Alexandria where the trial of El Shafee el-Sheikh is taking place, on April 5, 2022 in Virginia (AFP / SAUL LOEB)
“Why did you call him that?” asked prosecutor Alicia Cook. “Because that’s where they used to take young women to rape them.”
One night, the leader of the IS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, whom she met in one of her first prisons and calls “Abu Khalid” “entered” the cell where the three women sleep.
“He took Kayla for the night,” she said. “When he brought her back the next morning, she was very sad, nervous, crying.”
“She told us that he had raped her and that if she tried to run away he would kill her.”
“It happened another time,” added Lia Mulla, adding modestly that “Yazidi women” had suffered the same fate.
– “Tell the world” –
The young Yazidie then decides to escape. She tells her two cellmates about her plan, but Kayla Mueller “is too afraid of being beheaded” to follow her.
The American asks her, however, if she gets out of it, to “tell the world” what is happening to her.
Lia Mulla manages to escape through a window. Through a friend of her brother, she then came into contact with Americans. “I told them there was this young American girl held by ISIS…and all the rest.”
Despite this testimony, Kayla Mueller will not survive this experience.
Photo provided by the Syrian Democratic Forces of ISIS fighter El Shafee el-Sheikh on February 10, 2018 (Syrian Democratic Forces/Handout)
In February 2015, ISIS assured her family that Kayla was killed in an airstrike led by Jordan. An explanation that has never convinced the American authorities.
His death, and the execution of three American hostages staged in propaganda videos, earned El Shafee el-Sheikh, 33, a trial in the United States.
Stripped of his British nationality, he admits to having been a jihadist in the ranks of IS but denies having been part of the “Beatles” despite damning interviews he gave after his arrest by Syrian Kurdish forces in 2018.
After ten days devoted to the accusation, his lawyers will be able to present their arguments from Tuesday afternoon.
If they decide not to and if the defendant remains silent, the indictment and plea could take place on Wednesday morning. The jurors will then retire to deliberate.