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Terrorism & Security

US hostage Warren Weinstein makes plea to Obama in Al Qaeda video (+video)

Warren Weinstein, a long time development expert who was kidnapped in Pakistan last year, said in a video released by Al Qaeda 'my life is in your hands, Mr. President.'

By Correspondent / May 7, 2012

In an image provided by IntelCenter, a still from the video released Sunday by al-Qaeda of American hostage Warren Weinstein. Weinstein said he will be killed unless President Barack Obama agrees to the militant group's demands.

IntelCenter/AP

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A US citizen kidnapped last August in Pakistan has appeared for the first time in a video statement calling on US officials and President Obama to accept Al Qaeda’s demands in exchange for his release. The video appeared on several Islamic extremist websites on Sunday, but it remains unclear when it was made.

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“My life is in your hands, Mr. President,” said hostage Warren Weinstein in the video, as described by the Associated Press. “If you accept the demands, I live; if you don't accept the demands, then I die."

Ayman al-Zawahiri, Al Qaeda’s leader claimed responsibility for the abduction in an audio recording last December. The group’s demands include the release of several Al Qaeda members tied to the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and an end to US air strikes in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen.

The latest video further identifies Al Qaeda with the kidnapping of the elderly Mr. Weinstein, a dubious public relations strategy, notes the Monitor's Dan Murphy: "It's going to be very hard to sell the kidnapping of a 70-year-old unarmed man to the jihadi base as striking a glorious blow in a grand, religious cause – and as evidence that Al Qaeda is back in business." 

Gunmen broke into Mr. Weinstein’s home on August 13, just days before he was scheduled to leave Pakistan. He had been working for J.E. Austin Associates, an American company that manages many contracts for the US Agency for International Development (USAID). The BBC reports that he had nearly 25 years of development experience. In Pakistan, he helped import high-tech dairy machinery to increase milk yields, and set up scholarships for youth from the tribal areas to study a gemology.

Friends of Weinstein said their kidnapping left them “puzzled.” The veteran aid worker had reportedly gone to great lengths to understand and respect the local culture and learned to speak some Urdu.

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