Monday, May 7, 2012

Pakistan: Video-Clip Released Depicting Kidnapped American Aid Worker Alive, Well

According to AFP, kidnapped US development worker Warren Weinstein, 71, who was kidnapped from his Lahore home on August 13, 2011,  appeared in a short al-Qaeda video-clip on Sunday (May 6) for the first time since he was kidnapped.

The two-minute, 40-second video-clip was posted on jihadist websites. There is no indication of when the video was made and Weinstein appears alone before the camera.

Dressed in a traditional Pakistani tunic and speaking dispassionately as if he had been coached by his captors, Weinstein urged US President Barack Obama to respond to his kidnappers' demands. He also told his wife that he is fine, being well taken care of and has access to required medications to treat very conditions of asthma, hypertension and heart conditions.

Pakistani officials believe that Weinstein is being held by the Taliban near the Afghan-Pakistani border. The US Embassy in Islamabad made no comment on the video's release.

COMMENT: In the video-clip the American aid worker said that ""If you accept the demands, I live; if you don't accept the demands, then I die."

Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in December 2011 claimed that the group was holding Weinstein, but offered no evidence that the group was holding him.

Al-Zawahiri has demanded that Washington end air strikes in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen, and release the 1993 World Trade Center bombers along with relatives of the late al-Qaeda leader,  Osama bin Laden.

Ironically, Weinstein was kidnapped from his residence literally a day before he was scheduled to permanently return to the US. Hence, he obviously had been under regular pre-incident surveillance as to his day-to-day activities. At that time, the American was country director for US-based consultancy J E Austin Associates, which does contracting work with the US government's development agency, USAID. 

Up until the time that Weinstein was kidnapped, the abduction of foreigners was relatively rare, with both the Taliban and al-Qaeda adhering to its preferred terrorist tactic of using mass-casualty truck bombs against soft targets such as luxury hotels.

On April 29 of this year, British aid worker Khalil Dale was found beheaded in the southwestern city of Quetta, with a note from his captors saying he had been killed because their demands were not complied with. He was abducted on January 5. 

Three other foreign aid and development workers remain in captivity: German, talian and Kenyan nationals.

Needless to say, any foreign consultant or aid worker providing short-term or long-term services to local embassies and consulates should consider themselves at risk of being kidnapped. They should assume that they are under surveillance and should demand formidable residential security, as well as being transported in ballistic-resistant vehicles in areas where foreigners have been kidnapped in the past.