WASHINGTON: Al Qaeda is holding a US aid worker who was kidnapped in August in Pakistan, the extremist group’s leader Ayman al-Zawahiri said in a Thursday statement seen by a US-based monitoring group.
Zawahiri reportedly claimed in an audio message released on jihadist forums, that al Qaeda had on August 13 abducted the elderly USAID contractor Warren Weinstein, who was “neck-deep in American aid to Pakistan,” the SITE Intelligence Group said.
He said that the White House could secure the 70-year-old Weinstein’s release if it halts air strikes in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen, and releases the 1993 World Trade Center bombers and relatives of Osama bin Laden.
“Just as the Americans detain all whom they suspect of links to al Qaeda and the Taliban, even remotely, we detained this man who has been neck-deep in American aid to Pakistan since the 1970s,” Zawahiri said in the 31-minute video.
Among the list of eight demands for Weinstein’s release, al Qaeda also called for the release of “Blind Sheikh” Omar Abdul Rahman, Ramzi Yousef and Sayyid Nosair, who are tied to the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.
Also on the list: Abu Musab al-Suri, one of al Qaeda’s senior theorists and operatives.
SITE said Zawahiri directly addressed the hostage’s family, telling them that US President Barack Obama had the power to get Weinstein freed but that he was “dodging” his responsibility to push for the release.
Obama “lied, he lies, and he will lie,” Zawahiri was quoted as saying.
“He might say to you: ‘I sought to release your relative, but al Qaeda was stubborn.’ Do not believe him.
“He might say to you: ‘I tried to contact them and they did not answer.’ Do not believe him. He might say to you: ‘I am doing all that I can to release your relative.’ Do not believe him.”
Gunmen snatched Weinstein, country director for US-based consultancy J.E. Austin Associates, which does contracting work with the US Agency for International Development, from his home in Lahore in mid-August.