ISLAMABAD — A 72-year-old American development worker who was kidnapped in Pakistan by al-Qaeda more than two years ago appealed to President Obama in a video released today to negotiate his release, saying he feels “totally abandoned and forgotten.”
The video of Warren Weinstein was the first since two videos released in September 2012. Weinstein, the country director in Pakistan for J.E. Austin Associates, a U.S.-based firm that advises a range of Pakistani business and government sectors, was abducted from his house in the eastern city of Lahore in August 2011.
In the video sent today to reporters in Pakistan including The Associated Press, Weinstein called on the U.S. government to negotiate his release.
“Nine years ago I came to Pakistan to help my government, and I did so at a time when most Americans would not come here, and now when I need my government it seems that I have been totally abandoned and forgotten,” Weinstein said during the 13-minute video. “And so I again appeal to you to instruct your appropriate officials to negotiate my release.”
It was impossible to tell how much Weinstein’s statement, made under the duress of captivity, was scripted by his captors.
The video and an accompanying letter purported to be from Weinstein was emailed anonymously to reporters in Pakistan. The video was labelled “As-Sahab,” which is al-Qaeda’s media wing, but its authenticity could not be independently verified. The letter was dated Oct. 3, 2013 and in the video Weinstein said he had been in captivity for two years.
In the video, Weinstein wore a grey track suit jacket and what appeared to be a black knit hat on his head. His face was partially covered with a beard.
Al-Qaeda has said Weinstein would be released if the U.S. halted airstrikes in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen and also demanded the release of all al-Qaeda and Taliban suspects around the world.
The White House has called for Weinstein’s immediate release but has said it won’t negotiate with al-Qaeda.
The videos last year showed Weinstein appealing for help from the Jewish community and Israel’s prime minister.