White House: Counterterrorism forces killed American hostage held by al Qaeda

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(CNN) — The White House announced Thursday that a U.S. counterterrorism operation targeting an al Qaeda compound in January accidentally killed two innocent hostages. One of them was Warren Weinstein.

Gunmen abducted Warren Weinstein in 2011 from his home in Lahore, Pakistan. They posed as neighbors, offered food and then pistol-whipped the American aid worker and tied up his guards, according to his daughter Alisa Weinstein.

Weinstein was working with the United States Agency for International Development and helping Pakistanis live better lives, according to President Barack Obama, who spoke about Weinstein’s death Thursday morning.

Weinstein “willing left the comforts” of his home in the United States to help Pakistanis, Obama said. Both Weinstein and another hostage killed in the January operation, Italian Giovanni Lo Porto, “believed passionately” that they could make a difference and had dedicated their lives to service.

Weinstein served in the Peace Corps before he worked for USAID, the President said, adding that al Qaeda held Weinstein for his Jewish faith. Obama noted that the hostage’s health had been deteriorating.

Alisa Weinstein told CNN in June 2014 that her father was ailing. But it was an optimistic time for the family.

That month captors released U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, and that buoyed Alisa Weinstein’s hopes that her father would be freed.

Weinstein’s daughter said he had a heart condition and severe asthma.

Al Qaeda released a video of him on Christmas 2013. He appeared to be suffering.

Over the years, when Weinstein’s case came up, U.S. officials called for his release but repeatedly said Washington would not bargain with al Qaeda.

During the operation in January, American officials had “no reason to believe either hostage was present” when the raid was launched on a compound in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region.

The White House also disclosed Thursday that two other Americans, both al Qaeda operatives, were also killed in U.S. counterterrorism operations in the same region.

Al Qaeda leader Ahmed Farouq, who was an American citizen, was killed in the operation that killed the two hostages.

Adam Gadahn, another American who joined al Qaeda, was also killed by U.S. forces in the region, “likely in a separate” counterterrorism operation, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said in the statement.

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