By Alex Rodriguez, Los Angeles Times –
ISLAMABAD — An American development worker kidnapped last year from his home in the eastern Pakistan city of Lahore has appeared in a video released by al-Qaida, saying his captors will kill him if President Barack Obama does not meet their demands.
Warren Weinstein, 70, was abducted from his home in an upscale neighborhood last August, just days before he was schedueled to finish his work in Pakistan and leave for the U.S. In December, al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri appeared in a video and stated that his terror network was holding Weinstein.
Pakistani officials have said they believe that Weinstein is being held somewhere in the country’s volatile tribal region along the Afghan border, where al-Qaida militants and other Islamic extremist groups maintain strongholds.
The 2 minute, 40 second video of Weinstein, released on Sunday, shows him dressed in a traditional Pakistani tunic as he calmly urges Obama to acquiesce to al-Qaida’s demands. In the December video, al-Zawahiri demanded an end to all U.S. airstrikes in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen, as well as the release of all al-Qaida and Taliban militants currently being detained.
“If you accept the demands, I live,” Weinstein said in the video, directing his remarks to Obama. “If you don’t accept the demands, then I die.”
Weinstein appears alone in the video, which was posted on jihadist Internet forums by al-Sahab, al-Qaida’s media wing. It is not known when the video was made.
Addressing his wife, Elaine, Weinstein said, “I’m fine, I’m well, I’m getting all my medications. I’m being taken care of.” Weinstein, whose home is in Rockville, Md., suffers from asthma and high blood pressure.
He urged Obama to move quickly to secure his release. “It’s important you accept the demands and act quickly and don’t delay,” he said. “There’ll be no benefit in delaying. It will just make things more difficult for me.”
Weinstein had been based in Lahore for seven years. At the time of his kidnapping, he was the country director for J.E. Austin Associates, an Arlington, Va., consultant for development projects in Pakistan and a host of other countries. According to the company’s website, the firm often works with the U.S. Agency for International Development, the American government’s primary international aid organization.
Weinstein’s abduction was followed by a spate of kidnappings of other foreign aid and development workers. One worker with the Red Cross, Khalil Dale of Britain, was found beheaded in the southwestern city of Quetta on April 29. His captors left a note on his body saying he was killed because their ransom demands were not met.