Police investigators told a visiting team of Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on Monday that they have tracked down the al Qaeda ring involved in the kidnapping of a septuagenarian US aid worker.
Warren Weinstein, 71, was abducted from his residence in the upscale Model Town neighbourhood of Lahore on August 13, 2011. He was the country director for JE Austin Associates, a US-based consultancy which works with the US Agency for International Development.
An FBI team visited the offices of the deputy inspector general of police (investigation branch) and superintendent of police at Crime Investigation Agency (CIA) to get updates on the investigations.
The team was told that Pakistani agencies have arrested two al Qaeda operatives who were part of the eight-member ring involved in Weinstein’s kidnapping, sources told The Express Tribune. One of them took part in the kidnapping while the other was the facilitator.
However, the remaining six members of the network, including al Qaeda chief Ayman al Zawahiri and his Pakistani cohort Afzaal Hussain, could not be arrested because they are hiding in the tribal regions and neighbouring provinces of Afghanistan.
The FBI team’s visit coincided with the release of a video message by al Qaeda’s media arm in which Weinstein has been shown pleading for his life and asking President Barack Obama to accept his captors’ demands.
Although he didn’t spell out the demands, last year al Zawahiri had said that Weinstein would be freed if the US stopped drone strikes in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen and released al Qaeda and Taliban prisoners, including the 9/11 suspects in Guantanamo Bay.
According to the Joint Investigation Report, the eight members of the network also include Saifur Rehman, a resident of Chak No 37, Pakpattan district, Hafiz Muhammad Imran, alias Abbas, a resident of Sodhraan More, Gujranwala district.
Saif told investigators that he had rented a room in Dogar Plaza, situated near the Tokhar Niaz Baig neighbourhood of Lahore, where the kidnappers had stayed for three days (August 11 to 13). Saif also confessed that he had only arranged accommodation for the kidnappers.
Hafiz Imran told investigators that he had done recce on the residence of Weinstein for two days before his kidnapping. Later he also actively took part in the kidnapping. The pair identified the remaining three members of their network by their pseudonyms as Saeed, Talha and Ali.
During the identification parade in the court of Judicial Magistrate of Model Town, Syed Naeem Abbas, the security guards who were posted at Weinstein’s residence on the day of kidnapping identified Hafiz Imran, sources told The Express Tribune. The guards have been included in the list of witnesses in the case.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 8th, 2012.