US says it won't negotiate with al-Qaida after kidnapped aid worker's video airs
ISLAMABAD - U.S. officials on Monday reiterated that they would not negotiate with al-Qaida after an American development worker kidnapped last year in Pakistan appeared in a video released by the militant group saying his captors would kill him if President Barack Obama does not meet their demands.
Warren Weinstein, 70, was abducted from his home in an upscale neighborhood of Lahore last August, just days before he was slated to finish his work in Pakistan and leave for the U.S. In December, Al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahri appeared in a video and stated that his terror network was holding Weinstein.
Pakistani officials have said they believe that Weinstein is being held somewhere in the country's volatile tribal region along the Afghan border, where al-Qaida militants and other Islamic extremist groups maintain strongholds.
The 2-minute, 40-second video of Weinstein, released Sunday, shows him dressed in a traditional Pakistani tunic as he calmly urges Obama to acquiesce to al-Qaida's demands. In the December video, al-Zawahri demanded an end to all U.S. airstrikes in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen, as well as the release of all al-Qaida and Taliban militants currently being detained.
"If you accept the demands, I live," Weinstein said in the video, directing his remarks to Obama. "If you don't accept the demands, then I die."
In Washington, White House spokesman Jay Carney told a morning briefing that Obama was aware of the video, though he wasn't sure the president had seen it.
"We remain greatly concerned for Mr. Weinstein's safety and his well-being. Our hearts go out to him and his family," he said. "We condemn his kidnapping in the strongest terms and call for his immediate release.
"The U.S. government will continue making every effort to see Mr. Weinstein released safely to his family, but we cannot and will not negotiate with al-Qaeda."
Sunday's video was posted on militant Internet forums by Al-Sahab, al-Qaida's media wing. It is not known when it was made. Weinstein appears alone in the clip.
Addressing his wife, Elaine, Weinstein says, "I'm fine, I'm well, I'm getting all my medications. I'm being taken care of." The hostage, whose home is in Rockville, Md., suffers from asthma and high blood pressure.
He urged Obama to move quickly to secure his release. "It's important you accept the demands and act quickly and don't delay," he says. "There'll be no benefit in delaying. It will just make things more difficult for me."
Weinstein had been based in Lahore for seven years. At the time of his kidnapping, he was the country director for J.E. Austin Associates, an Arlington, Va., consultant for development projects in Pakistan and a host of other countries. According to the company's website, the firm often works with the U.S. Agency for International Development.
Weinstein's abduction was followed by a spate of kidnappings of other foreign aid and development workers. One worker with the Red Cross, Khalil Dale of Britain, was found beheaded in the southwestern city of Quetta on April 29. His captors left a note on his body saying he was killed because their ransom demands were not met.
Rodriguez reported from Islamabad and Hennessey from Washington.