WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump recognized the parents of Kayla Mueller, an American humanitarian aid worker who was kidnapped and imprisoned by ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, Tuesday during the State of the Union address.
"In 2013, while caring for suffering civilians in Syria, Kayla was kidnapped, tortured, and enslaved by ISIS, and kept as a prisoner of Al-Baghdadi himself. After more than 500 horrifying days of captivity, Al-Baghdadi murdered young Kayla," Trump said after recognizing Carl and Marsha Mueller.
"She was just 26 years old," he said.
The president then recounted the night that U.S. Special Forces carried out the mission that led to Al-Baghdadi's life.
"The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, received a call in the Situation Room. He was told that the brave men of the elite Special Forces team, that so perfectly carried out the operation, had given their mission a name," Trump explained.
"Task Force 8-14, it was a reference to a special day: August 14th, Kayla's birthday," he said, telling Kayla's parents that, "America's warriors never forgot Kayla and neither will we."
Trump also said in his remarks that the more than 20,000 square miles of ISIS-held territory had been "100% destroyed."
The president also recognized the widow and child of U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Christopher Hake, who was killed in Iraq on Easter Sunday in 2008.
"The terrorist responsible for killing Sergeant Hake was Qasem Soleimani, who provided the deadly roadside bomb that took Chris's life. Soleimani was the Iranian Regime's most ruthless butcher, a monster who murdered or wounded thousands of American service members in Iraq," Trump said.
"That is why, last month, at my direction, the United States military executed a flawless precision strike that killed Soleimani and terminated his evil reign of terror forever," he said of the January 2 strike.
Soleimani, who led a special forces unit of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards, had been a key figure of Iranian and Middle East politics.
His death exacerbated already-high tensions between Iran and the United States and triggered concerns of retaliation from Iranian forces.
On the heels of the attacks, Iran launched at least a dozen missiles from its territory on January 7 at two military bases in Iraq that house U.S. military and coalition forces.
A day later from the White House, Trump said that Iran appeared "to be standing down" after firing a barrage of missiles at American targets in Iraq.
"Because of our powerful sanctions, the Iranian economy is doing very poorly. We can help them make it very good in a short period of time, but perhaps they are too proud or too foolish to ask for that help. We are here. Let's see which road they choose. It is totally up to them," he said, referring to Washington's maximum pressure campaign.
"Our message to the terrorists is clear: You will never escape American justice. If you attack our citizens, you forfeit your life," Trump said.