Al Qaeda has released its first video of Warren Weinstein, an American citizen who was kidnapped in Lahore, Pakistan in August 2011. In the videotape, Weinstein pleaded with US President Barack Obama to submit to al Qaeda’s demands to ensure his release before he is killed.
The videotape, which was produced by As Sahab, al Qaeda’s propaganda department, and released on jihadist websites yesterday, is titled “A Message from the Prisoner Warren Weinstein to His President.” In the video, Weinstein directly addresses Obama, and begs for the president to accept al Qaeda’s terms for his release.
“And I’d like to talk to President Obama and ask him – beg him – that he accept and respond to the demands of the mujahideen, for my life is in your hands, Mr. President,” Weinstein said, according to a transcript of his statement which was provided by the SITE Intelligence Group. “If you accept the demands, I live; if you don’t accept the demands, then I die. It’s important you accept the demands and act quickly and don’t delay. They’ll be no benefit in delaying, it will just make things more difficult for me.”
Weinstein appealed to Obama as a father, and then claimed the president is “not paying any attention or care about my problem or my needs.”
Weinstein, who is 70 years old, was clearly under duress. He has been in captivity since he was kidnapped in his home in the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore on Aug. 13, 2011. He worked for J.E. Austin Associates, where he directed development projects.
The video of Weinstein confirms that al Qaeda is indeed holding him. He was rumored to have been kidnapped by al Qaeda, but it wasn’t clear that the terror group was holding him until Ayman al Zawahiri, the group’s emir, released a statement on Dec. 1, 2011. Zawahiri mentioned him in a video that also announced the death of Atiyah Abd al Rahman and addressed the people of Egypt.
In the Dec. 1, 2011 video, Zawahiri referred to Weinstein as the “American Jew” and said he was taken prisoner just as the US takes al Qaeda and Taliban prisoners.
“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 the SITE Intelligence Group, which translated his statement.
Zawahiri said that Weinstein would be released if the US halted drone strikes in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, and Somalia, and freed terrorist prisoners at Guantanamo Bay as well as Omar Abdul Rahman, Ramzi Yousef, Sayyid Nosair, and Abu Musab al Suri. Zawahiri also called the US “to release everyone who was detained on charges of belonging to al-Qaeda and the Taliban, even if they were handed over to another country.”
The four jihadists who were explicitly named by Zawahiri have deep ties to terrorism. Rahman, who is better known as the “Blind Sheikh”; Yousef, whose uncle is Khalid Shaikh Mohammad, the architect of 9/11; and Nosair, an American citizen, were sentenced to life in US federal prison for their involvement in the 1993 bombing at the World Trade Center in New York City. Al Suri is a top al Qaeda strategist and ideologue who is rumored to have been freed by the Syrian government late last year, just after Zawahiri’s speech was released.
Screen shot of Warren Weinstein, from al Qaeda’s hostage video. Image from the SITE Intelligence Group.
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.