Kayla Mueller's Syrian photographer boyfriend says he went back in 2013 to the detention cell in Syria where he had once been held with Mueller to plead for her release. For a few seconds, Omar Alkhani even saw her face when captors removed her covering to prove it was her, he told the AP last night via webcam from Turkey. But when guards asked Mueller to confirm Alkhani's story that he was her husband—which he told them apparently believing militants wouldn't hold the wife of a Muslim hostage—she denied it. Alkhani now speculates that, since guards had promised Mueller he wouldn't be harmed if she told the truth, she did just that to save his skin. "Since she's American, they would not let her go anyway," he says. "Maybe she wanted to save me. Maybe she didn't know I came back to save her." Whatever the reason, Alkhani left without his love, and the story of how they met is now emerging.
Confirmed by a Mueller family spokeswoman in the Arizona Republic to be Mueller's boyfriend, Alkhani reportedly met Mueller in 2010 in Cairo and kept in touch for two years until she came to Turkey to help Syrian refugees. Despite warnings, Mueller crossed the border into Syria in August 2013, which is when she and Alkhani were snatched by ISIS after leaving a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Aleppo. Alkhani was released a few weeks later, then went back in 2013 to rescue Mueller, the Republic reports; he was reportedly captured and released a second time during his travels. Alkhani, who has posted heartbroken messages to Mueller on Facebook under an assumed name, per the Republic, tells the AP he never wanted her with him on his travels to Syria. "We argued about it," he said. "In the end, I was afraid if she didn't go with me, she would go with someone else."