Washington (CNN)The United States made a risky, but ultimately unsuccessful, attempt to rescue American hostage Kayla Mueller from ISIS custody before her death, President Barack Obama said on Tuesday.
Obama talks about decision not to pay ransom for ISIS hostage, rescue attempt
"I deployed an entire operation — at significant risk — to rescue not only her, but the other individuals who had been held, and probably missed them by a day or two," Obama told Buzzfeed News' Ben Smith in an interview. He said the U.S. always devotes "enormous resources to freeing captives or hostages anywhere in the world."
In his first public comments about Mueller, Obama said he was heartbroken at news of the American humanitarian worker's death. But he maintained his stance against paying ransoms for American hostages -- even if that means going against their families' wishes.
"It's as tough as anything that I do -- having conversations with parents who understandably want, by any means necessary, for their children to be safe," Obama said. "We will do everything we can short of providing an incentive for future Americans to be caught."
The White House said earlier Tuesday that Obama had recently phoned Mueller's parents to offer condolences after U.S. intelligence confirmed their daughter's death. Officials said they couldn't be sure when and how Mueller had died based on the photographic evidence ISIS sent Mueller's family.
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said it appeared unlikely Mueller died in a coalition airstrike last week, as ISIS has claimed, since evidence showed no civilians were in the vicinity of the targeted buildings.