U.S. Operations Killed Two Hostages Held By Al-Qaida, Including An American
Updated at 10:56 a.m. ET
President Obama offered his "grief and condolences" to the families of the American and Italian aid workers killed in a U.S. counterterrorism operation in January. Both men were held hostage by al-Qaida.
"I take full responsibility for a U.S. government counterterrorism operation that killed two innocent hostages held by al-Qaida," Obama said.
The president said both Warren Weinstein, an American held by the group since 2011, and Giovanni Lo Porto, an Italian national held since 2012, were "devoted to improving the lives of the Pakistani people."
Earlier today, the White House in a statement announced the two deaths, along with the killings of two American al-Qaida members.
"Analysis of all available information has led the Intelligence Community to judge with high confidence that the operation accidentally killed both hostages," the White House statement said. "The operation targeted an al-Qa'ida-associated compound, where we had no reason to believe either hostage was present, located in the border region of Afghanistan and Pakistan. No words can fully express our regret over this terrible tragedy."
The statement did not specify the nature of the operation, but The Wall Street Journal, citing unnamed senior Obama administration officials, saidthe deaths were from a drone strike.
The statement added that Ahmed Farouq, an American al-Qaida leader, was killed in the same operation. It also said Adam Gadahn, another American al-Qaida leader, was killed likely in a different operation the same month.
"While both Farouq and Gadahn were al-Qa'ida members, neither was specifically targeted, and we did not have information indicating their presence at the sites of these operations," the statement said.
As we have previously reported, Weinstein was a development worker and Peace Corps veteran who was kidnapped in 2011 from his home in Pakistan. In a video released in December 2013, he was seen asking President Obama to "to instruct your appropriate officials to negotiate my release."
In a statement, Weinstein's family said they were "devastated by this news" and said "those who took Warren captive over three years ago bear ultimate responsibility" for his death.
Writing for the Weinstein family, Elaine Weinstein, the slain aid worker's wife, thanked Maryland lawmakers and specific FBI officials "for their relentless efforts to free my husband."
But she added: "Unfortunately, the assistance we received from other elements of the U.S. Government was inconsistent and disappointing over the course of three and a half years. We hope that my husband's death and the others who have faced similar tragedies in recent months will finally prompt the U.S. Government to take its responsibilities seriously and establish a coordinated and consistent approach to supporting hostages and their families."
Lo Porto, as the Guardian newspaper reported in a profile in 2013, traveled to Pakistan's Punjab province start a new job as an aid worker. But he was kidnapped soon after his arrival.
Gadahn, as NPR's Dina Temple-Raston reported in 2010, joined al-Qaida in the late 1990s. He was a New Mexico native of Yemeni descent. Here's more from her profile of him:
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