A US government contract worker kidnapped by Al-Qaeda militants in 2011 has appeared in a video where he begs Obama and Kerry to negotiate with his captors in order to secure his release and reunite him with his family.
Warren Weinstein, 72, looked ill and emaciated in the 13-minute clip, which was released by Al-Qaeda to various reporters in Pakistan on Thursday.
“I am not in good health. I have a heart condition. I suffer from acute asthma. Needless to say I’ve been suffering from acute anxiety every part of every day,” he says.
Weinstein was abducted from his house in the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore in August 2011 while serving as country director for JE Austin Associates - a US based firm that advises the Pakistani government and the private sector.
The latest footage is the first video to be released since September 2012. In it, Weinstein implores the US government to begin negotiating 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. And so I again appeal to you to instruct your appropriate officials to negotiate my release,” he says.
He also appeals directly to the president, saying, “Mr. Obama, you are a family man and so you understand the deep mental anxiety and anguish that I have been experiencing.”
In a direct appeal to US Secretary of State John Kerry, Weinstein says that his captors would allow his relatives to visit him in custody if the US would agree to release unspecified prisoners in exchange.
“Mr. Kerry, I am appealing to you to take in an interest in my case to use your skills to help the Obama government to achieve my release. As a first step I would ask you to take action with regard to their [Al-Qaeda] people who are being held as prisoners, actions that would be acceptable to my captors to allow my family to visit me,” Weinstein says.
The video was supposedly accompanied by a hand written note purported to be from Weinstein, which was dated October 3, 2013. In the letter, Weinstein asks journalists to keep his case alive to ensure “that I am not forgotten and just become another statistic.” His plea is repeated in the video.
He also appeals to the American people, asking them to use every appropriate social media network to mount a campaign to persuade the US government to negotiate his release.
Finally, he addresses his family.
“I would like to ask my family, my wife, my two daughters, my son-in-law, not to give up hope,” he says.
The video carries the yellow logo of As-Sahab, the media wing of Al-Qaeda, but it’s authenticity has not been independently verified. It is also not clear how much of Weinstein’s plea, made under the duress of captivity, was scripted by his captors.
Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri said in a statement released in December 2011 that Weinstein could be released if the US halted airstrikes in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen and released every Taliban and Al-Qaeda suspect in the world.
US State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said that US officials were “working to authenticate” the contents of the message.
The White House previously stated that it has called for Weinstein’s release, but that it will not negotiate with Al-Qaeda under any circumstances.
In 2011, the US government denied that it had paid “blood money” to relatives of victims allegedly killed by CIA agent Raymond Davies, who had been imprisoned in Pakistan after supposedly killing two local men.
His release prompted accusations that Washington is prepared to negotiate for its intelligence agents, but not for everyday US citizens.
In the two previous videos released in September 2012, Weinstein - who is Jewish - appealed for help from the Jewish community and the Israeli prime minister.