Officials: US Won’t Bargain for Release of Man Held by Al Qaeda
By the CNN Wire Staff
(CNN) — The United States will not bargain with al Qaeda over the life of an American worker filmed making an emotional plea to President Barack Obama to save his life, U.S. officials said Monday.
“We don’t make concessions to terrorists,” State Department spokesman Mark Toner said when asked whether the United States would meet the demands contained in a video posted Sunday to several Islamist websites featuring Warren Weinstein.
“My life is in your hands, Mr. President,” said the American captured in August from his home in the Pakistani city of Lahore. “If you accept the demands, I live. If you don’t accept the demands, then I die.”
White House spokesman Jay Carney reiterated the point, saying that while the administration’s hearts go out to Weinstein and his family, “we cannot and will not negotiate with al Qaeda.”
Ayman al-Zawahiri, leader of the al Qaeda terror network, listed eight demands that he said, if met, would result in Weinstein’s release. The demands related to issues in the Middle East, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Somalia.
“It is important that you accept these demands and act quickly and don’t delay,” Weinstein said in the video posted Sunday.
Toner said that U.S. officials had not corroborated the video and could not say with certainty that the man in the video is Weinstein.
He said he believes Weinstein is likely being held in the tribal areas of Pakistan, but that the United States has no way to verify it.
The State Department said Monday that U.S. officials, including the FBI, are assisting Pakistani authorities in the investigation.
Toner said Monday that the government is staying in close contact with Weinstein’s family.
In the video, which is less than three minutes long, Weinstein makes references to Obama’s daughters and to his own children; he says he wants to let his wife know he is “fine and well.”
Al Qaeda’s demands include the lifting of the blockade on movement of people and trade between Egypt and Gaza; an end to bombing by the United States and its allies in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia and Gaza; the release of anyone arrested on charges of belonging to al Qaeda and the Taliban.
It also calls for the release of all prisoners in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and American secret prisons and the closure of Guantanamo and the other prisons.
The group also wants the release of terrorists convicted in the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center and the release of relatives of Osama bin Laden, the founder of al Qaeda who was killed last year in Pakistan.
Weinstein was captured after his kidnappers managed to overcome the three security guards who were protecting him.
As the guards prepared for the meal before the Ramadan fast, three men knocked at the front gate and offered food for the meal — a traditional practice among Muslims during the holy month of Ramadan, according to the Lahore police.
Once the gate was opened, the three men forced their way in while five others entered the house from the back, tied up the guards and duct-taped their mouths, according to the police.
They pistol-whipped the driver and forced him to take them to Weinstein’s room, where they also hit Weinstein on the head with a pistol and forced him out of the house and into a waiting car, the police said.
A police official said in August that three suspects had been arrested in Weinstein’s kidnapping.
Weinstein was working for J.E. Austin Associates Inc., a consulting firm based in Arlington, Virginia.
CNN’s Elise Labott and Saad Abedine contributed to this report.