Washington: The Islamic State militant group is holding hostage a young American woman who was doing humanitarian aid work in Syria, a family representative said.
The 26-year-old woman is the third American known to have been kidnapped by the radical group.
The Islamic State group recently threatened to kill American hostages to avenge the crushing air strikes in Iraq against militants advancing on Mount Sinjar and the Kurdish capital of Irbil.
The 26-year-old woman was captured last year while working with three humanitarian groups in Syria. A representative for the family and US officials asked that the woman not be identified out of fear for her safety. All spoke yesterday on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to discuss the issue publicly.
More than a week ago, American freelance journalist James Foley was beheaded by the Islamic State group, which kidnapped him in November 2012. Foley, 40, had worked in a number of conflict zones across the Mideast, including Iraq, Libya and Syria. He was in northern Syria on assignment for Agence France-Press and the Boston-based news organisation GlobalPost when the car he was riding in was stopped by four militants in a contested battle zone that both Sunni rebel fighters and government forces were trying to control.
The Islamic State video of Foley's beheading also showed another of the missing American journalists, Steven Sotloff, and warned he would be killed next if US air strikes continued. US officials believe the video was made days before its release and have grown increasingly worried about Sotloff's fate.
Other American hostages have been held by other militant groups, including Peter Curtis, who was recently released by al-Nusra Front, a rival Sunni extremist group. Another U.S. freelance journalist, Austin Tice, disappeared in Syria in August 2012 and is believed to be held by the Syrian government. Tice was working for The Washington Post, McClatchy Newspapers and other media outlets when he was kidnapped.
There were reports yesterday that another American, Douglas McArthur McCain, was killed in Syria. The circumstances of his death were unclear.