The Pentagon said U.S. Special Operations forces participated in a hostage rescue mission that freed the son of a former Pakistani prime minister from the clutches of al-Qaeda.
Ali Haidar Gilani — son of Yusuf Reza Gilani, who was a strong U.S. ally during his tenure from 2008-12 — was captured three years ago. The 29-year-old was kidnapped when gunmen stormed a Pakistan Peoples Party campaign event. Gilani’s secretary and a bodyguard were killed before the prime minister’s son was whisked off in a black Honda.
“This operation was conducted by Afghan forces with cooperation and advice from foreign troops. As a result of the operation five al-Qaeda members have been killed and several others were wounded and arrested,” said Dawlat Waziri, spokesman for the Ministry of Defense, according to Afghanistan’s Tolo News.
Tawab Ghorzang, spokesman for Afghanistan’s National Security Council, said Gilani was in “good health” after his ordeal, and the Afghan government “once again wants Pakistan to fulfill its promise in implementing the roadmap of peace and take action against those insurgent groups in Pakistan, which are creating insecurity in Afghanistan.”
Defense Secretary Ashton Carter issued a statement commending “the U.S. Special Operations personnel and the Afghan special operations forces for the professionalism and skill they demonstrated in the raid this morning in Paktika Province, Afghanistan.”
“In the counterterrorism operation targeting al-Qaeda operatives, the partnered team freed Ali Haider Gilani, the son of Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, who had been held hostage since he was kidnapped three years ago in Pakistan. We will work with the governments of Afghanistan and Pakistan to return him home safely after he receives a medical evaluation,” Carter said.
“This raid demonstrates the growing capabilities and effectiveness of the Afghan security forces and is an excellent example of the strong security and intelligence partnership between Afghan and U.S. forces under Operation Freedom’s Sentinel,” he added. “Working alongside our Afghan partners, we will continue to make it clear that there is no safe haven for terrorists in Afghanistan.”
A January 2015 drone strike on the border region of Pakistan and Afghanistan killed American Warren Weinstein and an Italian aid worker also being held hostage by al-Qaeda, Giovani Lo Porto. Weinstein was abducted Aug. 13, 2011, by armed gunmen who burst into his Lahore home, where the Maryland resident was staying while doing economic development work in the region.
The Weinstein family said they felt deceived by the Obama administration after it was reported that the CIA may have spotted the U.S. hostage on drone footage as long as a year before he was killed.