MOSCOW, August 27 (RIA Novosti) - A female US humanitarian aid worker is being held captive by Islamic State (IS) militants who are demanding a $6.6 million ransom for her release, as well as the release of a Muslim woman, a neuroscientist, from a US prison.
A spokesman for the family of Aafia Siddiqui, who was convicted in 2010 for attempting to kill US officials, said Aafia’s family has been "traumatized” by the thoughts that someone else could be harmed in her name.
“They’re opposed to it … this is not the way, these are not the conditions under which we want our loved ones released. They conveyed that message loud and clear,” Mauri Saalakhan of the Peace and Justice Foundation told ABC News on Monday, after sharing the details of the IS ransom demand and the abduction of the US citizen, whose family asked that she not be named for fears of her safety.
The 26-year-old woman was kidnapped in Syria last year and is one of at least three US hostages reportedly held captive by the IS.
The IS, formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS), is a radical Sunni group that has been active in Syria, but started launching attacks in northern and western Iraq in June. Later that month, the radicals seized the Iraqi city of Mosul and announced that they had established a caliphate on the territory under their control.
In August, the United States started launching air strikes against IS positions in Iraq, as part of an operation, which, according to US President Barack Obama is aimed at protecting US personnel in Irbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, as well as preventing the “genocide" of Iraqi religious minorities.
On August 19, IS militants released a YouTube video showing a masked man beheading James Foley, a US journalist who was taken prisoner in Syria in November 2012.
Foley was killed in revenge for US airstrikes against IS positions in northern Iraq, the journalist’s executioner said in the video. IS also claimed to be holding another US journalist, Steven Joel Sotloff, who appears at the end of the video.
The IS demanded 100 million euros ($132.5 million) for Foley’s release. In a ransom request letter sent to Foely’s family, the group also asked for the release of Siddiqui, who is currently in prison in Texas having been sentenced to 86 years.
Foley’s ransom was not paid because the United States, along with the United Kingdom, has laws prohibiting such deals with terrorist groups.
The IS has taken hostage a number of Western Europeans, some of which were released when their respective countries paid the ransoms.
The United States estimates that so far this year IS militants already received millions of dollars in ransoms, according to US State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf.