Al-Qaeda needled the Obama administration about forgetting a U.S. contractor in their custody for three years, charging the U.S. government “wants Warren Weinstein to die in prison so that it may absolve itself of responsibility regarding his case.”
Weinstein was abducted Aug. 13, 2011, by armed gunmen who burst into his Lahore home. The Rockville, Md., resident put in several years with USAID and the World Bank before becoming an economic development consultant in 2003.
In a letter and video released last fall, the 73-year-old begged President Obama for help. “You are now in your second term as president of the United States and that means that you can take hard decisions without worrying about reelection,” he said. “I hope and pray to God that you, as leader of the United States, along with your administration, will feel an adequate level of responsibility toward me and work for my release.”
In Thursday’s message released by its media wing As-Sahab, al-Qaeda addresses his family.
“Your government has not made any serious efforts for the release of the prisoner. Your government has not contacted us for his release. We are not interested in retaining the prisoner in our protection; we are only seeking to exchange him in return for the fulfilment of our demands that we have conveyed,” the terror group said, according to the English text released alongside the Arabic.
“With the permission of Allah, we will not spare any efforts for the release of our prisoners who have been imprisoned by your government for no guilt except that they had acted in defense of the Muslim Ummah against the oppression of the American government. Your continued silence on the inaction of your government will only lead to your prisoner dying a lonely death in prison after this deliberate and prolonged neglect on the part of your government,” the statement continued.
“Therefore, if you want Warren Weinstein to be released, do whatever you can to pressurize [sic] your government.”
No new images of video of Weinstein were released by al-Qaeda.
In a series of media interviews, including Voice of America segments translated into Urdu and Pashto, Warren’s wife Elaine Weinstein stressed that they’ve been trying everything they can to move the government to help bring the USAID veteran home.
“We are plain, ordinary people, we have no influence with our government – we hope that everyone is doing everything possible to bring Warren home. We are totally powerless. What they are asking for in this message is something that a private family cannot deliver,” she told ABC News.
State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf was asked about Weinstein on Wednesday, the anniversary of his captivity.
“I don’t have much of an update for you. We remain concerned for the safety and well-being of Mr. Weinstein; continue to monitor the situation closely; and we continue to work actively with Pakistani authorities to try to secure his release,” Harf said.
“We remain in regular contact with his family in the United States, and providing all possible consular assistance; of course, strongly condemn kidnappings of any kind; call for the immediate release of the victim and the prosecution of those responsible,” she added.
Harf said she didn’t know what the highest level of talks about Weinstein had been with the Pakistani government.
Members of the Maryland congressional delegation have tried what they can, including introducing resolutions calling for the U.S. government to do all it can to bring Weinstein home.
“Three years ago Warren Weinstein was captured by terrorists. Today, Warren Weinstein, an American, a husband, a father, and a grandfather is still in al-Qaeda’s hands. We know that Warren is in ill health and needs medical care; but Warren is in the hands of terrorists, not those who love him,” his congressman, Rep. John Delaney (D-Md.), said in a statement on Wednesday.
“This anniversary is a somber occasion, but also a reminder that we must continue to stand with Warren and the Weinstein family. I call upon the president and the State Department to do everything they can to bring Warren home. Pakistan must also cooperate with our efforts. Any American held overseas must be a priority and we must use every lever available to us. Warren, you are not forgotten.”
Elaine Weinstein wrote in Newsweek Pakistan that through working in the country, her husband “developed a special connection with the country and a deep and profound respect for its people and culture.”
“We have not been able to speak to him. We have not been able to tell him we love him. We have only been able to see him, hear his voice, and know that he is still alive by watching the videos released by his captors. The last video they issued of Warren was in December. We have not heard or seen anything from Warren since then. We feel more anxious and concerned than ever for his safety and wellbeing,” she wrote.
“…He has always been there to take care of us as the head of our family. We love him very much and now wish to take care of him. Warren is in poor health. He has a heart condition and severe asthma. The Pakistani people treated my husband with such great hospitality while he worked and lived as a guest in their country. It is my sincere hope that he will continue to be treated as a guest by his captors until his release. His health issues require treatment and medication and, if he is not afforded the traditional Pakistani hospitality that he has come to love and respect, I fear that we will lose him.”