ISLAMABAD: A US development worker kidnapped in Pakistan by al Qaeda two years ago appealed to President Barack Obama to intervene and help negotiate his release, in a video released on Thursday.
In a 13-minute clip issued by al Qaeda’s media wing and posted on several news websites, Warren Weinstein, 72, looked gaunt and tired.
“I am not in good health. I have a heart condition. I suffer from acute asthma... Needless to say I’ve been suffering deep anxiety every part of every day,” he said.
“Mr president, for the majority of my adult life, for over 30 years I’ve served my country ... Now when I need my government it seems that I have been totally abandoned and forgotten.”
“You are now in your second term as president of the United States and that means that you can take hard decisions without worrying about re-election,” said Weinstein, who was recorded sitting against a white wall wearing a grey tracksuit top and a black woollen hat. No one else appeared in the video.
Weinstein did not say what specific steps the Obama administration could take to secure his release. He did say, however, that his captors have agreed to arrange for relatives to visit him in custody if the United States releases unspecified prisoners as part of a “quid pro quo”.
Weinstein also addressed US Secretary of State John F Kerry, telling him his captors have kept him abreast of peace deals that the top US diplomat has sought to broker.
Weinstein said a “first step” to getting him released would require taking “action with respect to their people who are being held as prisoners”.
“If anyone in the Obama government can understand my predicament it is yourself,” Weinstein said.
“I hope that one day soon I will be able to meet you as a free man and thank you for your efforts.”
The video, which included the yellow logo of As-Sahab, al Qaeda’s media production outlet, was sent in an anonymous e-mail to several journalists who have reported from Afghanistan. Included were links to a handwritten note that purports to be from Weinstein, saying “Letter to Media” at the top. The note is dated October 3. It is not clear when the video was made.
A US State Department spokeswoman and a member of Weinstein’s family said that they had not independently received the note or video.
State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf later said that US officials were “working hard to authenticate” the contents of the message.
“We reiterate our call that Warren Weinstein be released and returned to his family,” she said in a statement. “Particularly during this holiday season – another one away from his family – our hopes and prayers are with him and those who love and miss him.” Weinstein was abducted in 2011 in Lahore where he worked for a US consulting company.
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