Al Qaeda claims kidnapping of American Warren Weinstein

Al Qaeda sees him as an American operative, but ordinary Pakistanis saw his helping hand.

K.M. Chaudary/AP
A Pakistani police officer stands guard at the house of kidnapped American development expert Warren Weinstein in Lahore, Pakistan, in August.

Al Qaeda chief Ayman al- Zawahiri announced in a recording that the terror outfit is holding hostage an American development worker abducted in August.

Unidentified gunmen nabbed Warren Weinstein from his home in Lahore, Pakistan, just days before he planned to move back to the US. The case quickly went cold, with an unusually long period of silence until Mr. Zawahiri’s message. During that time, Mr. Weinstein may have been passed up a chain of criminal and terrorist outfits before winding up with Al Qaeda.

Weinstein headed up the Pakistan office for consulting firm J.E. Austin Associates, Inc. The company was working on US Agency for International Development (USAID) projects – part of the major investment American taxpayers have made in Pakistan.

"Just as the Americans detain all whom they suspect of links to al Qaeda and the Taliban, even remotely, we detained this man who is neck-deep in American aid to Pakistan since the seventies," Zawahiri said, according to a translation from the monitoring group SITE.

In August, the Monitor spoke with several Pakistanis who had worked with Weinstein, a man in his 70s, to enhance Pakistan’s dairy and gem trades.

“I am really shocked to hear” of his kidnapping, said Ehtesham Ullah Khan, a gemologist who knew Weinstein. “He was a very nice person and, to me, he made many friends as compared to no enemies.”

Mr. Khan explained how Weinstein helped him set up scholarships for Pakistanis living in tribal areas to study the gem trade. Twenty students received US scholarships and now have jobs or have started their own businesses, he said.

Weinstein's work also included importing dairy chillers to boost the productivity of Pakistan’s milk industry. His company boasted that the dairy development work resulting in $63 million in new investment to Pakistan, at least 2,150 new jobs, and a 25 percent boost in producer productivity.

“He helped the university in the establishment of dairy facilities, negotiating with colleagues in the Netherlands,” said Dr. Muhammad Abdullah, chair of livestock at the University of Veterinary and Animal Sciences in Lahore. “We had quite a professional interaction with him.”

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