The family of an Al-Qaeda hostage killed in a US drone strike is “devastated” by news of the death and disappointed in how Washington dealt with the situation, his wife said in a statement Thursday.
US President Barack Obama said earlier in the day that he takes “full responsibility” for the January counterterrorism mission that inadvertently killed Warren Weinstein, a Jewish American, and Italian Giovanni Lo Porto.
In a statement, Elaine Weinstein said the assistance her family received from the US government was “inconsistent and disappointing.”
“We hope that my husband’s death and the others who have faced similar tragedies in recent months will finally prompt the US government to take its responsibilities seriously and establish a coordinated and consistent approach to supporting hostages and their families,” she said.
“We were so hopeful that those in the US and Pakistani governments with the power to take action and secure his release would have done everything possible to do so and there are no words to do justice to the disappointment and heartbreak we are going through,” Elaine Weinstein said in a statement, according to CNN. “We do not yet fully understand all of the facts surrounding Warren’s death but we do understand that the US government will be conducting an independent investigation of the circumstances.”
“The cowardly actions of those who took Warren captive and ultimately to the place and time of his death are not in keeping with Islam and they will have to face their God to answer for their actions,” she said.
Obama spoke with Elaine Weinstein as well as Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.
The White House said compensation would be paid to the Weinstein and Lo Porto families.
Weinstein, 73, of Rockville, Maryland, was kidnapped in August 2011 outside Pakistan while he was working for J.E. Austin Associates, a private company that advises Pakistani businesses.
Weinstein, who was captured as he neared the end of a contract assignment with the US Agency for International Development, and Lo Porto were killed during a drone strike against an al-Qaeda compound in Pakistan, near the Afghan border.
US officials said the compound was targeted because intelligence showed it was frequented by al-Qaeda leaders. That same intelligence offered no indication the hostages were there, the officials said.
In his remarks from the White House, Obama expressed regret for the deaths of the two men and offered his “grief and condolences” to their families.
“Based on the intelligence that we had obtained at the time, including hundreds of hours of surveillance, we believed that this was an al-Qaeda compound, that no civilians were present and that capturing these terrorists was not possible,” Obama said. “And we do believe that the operation did take out dangerous members of al-Qaeda.”
In late August 2014, al-Qaeda urged the family of Weinstein to pressure the government to negotiate his release or risk his “dying a lonely death.”
“If you want Warren Weinstein to be released, do whatever you can to (pressure) your government,” the terror group said in a statement posted on Islamist websites.
“Your continued silence on the inaction of your government will only lead to your prisoner dying a lonely death in prison after this deliberate and prolonged neglect on the part of your government.”
In January, a video message featuring Weinstein, a former Peace Corps and USAID official, was sent to journalists and news services in Pakistan along with a link to a photo of a handwritten note.
Pakistan’s government said its intelligence and law enforcement agencies had “been making strenuous efforts” to locate Weinstein and were in regular contact with his family.
“The tragic news of Mr. Warren Weinstein’s death reportedly in a US drone strike has shocked everyone in Pakistan,” said Pakistan Embassy spokesman Nadeem Hotiana in a statement.
Officials said it became evident in the weeks after the strike and another drone bombing, which also killed two al-Qaeda leaders who held American citizenship, that Weinstein might have been killed.
A final assessment was reached in recent days and administration officials started briefing members of Congress.
The president said he had ordered a review of the drone strikes to help identify any changes that might be made to prevent similar deaths in the future.
The Republican leader of the House, Speaker John Boehner, welcomed Obama’s review of the incident, calling it “entirely appropriate.” And Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said it would be crucial to examine the operation “to make sure that the high standards that have been set were, in fact, met.”
The CIA drone program has killed al-Qaeda leaders, Pakistani Taliban fighters and other militants hiding in tribal regions, sparking anger across Pakistan over allegations of widespread civilian casualties. Since 2004, the US has carried out some 400 suspected drone strikes in Pakistan, according to the New America Foundation’s International Security Program, which tracks the American campaign.
Lo Porto disappeared in January 2012 in Pakistan, just a few days into his second stint in the country. A native of Sicily, Lo Porto previously worked in Croatia, the Central African Republic and Haiti.