Hostaged American Asks Obama for Help

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Dec. 26 2013 11:24 AM

American Held Hostage by al Qaeda Pleads for U.S. Help

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An American government contractor abducted by al Qaeda in Pakistan two years ago has called on President Obama to negotiate his release, saying he feels “totally abandoned and forgotten.” A 13-minute video available at the Washington Post reportedly shows 72-year-old Warren Weinstein making his case for the U.S. government to intervene on his behalf.

“Mr President, for the majority of my adult life — for over 30 years — I have served my country,” Weinstein said, describing various civil service roles he’s held over his career. “And now, when I need my government, it seems I have been totally abandoned and forgotten.”

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Al Qaeda has promised to free Weinstein in exchange for the release of al Qaeda and Taliban suspects, and the halting of U.S. airstrikes in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen, according to the Associated Press. The Washington Post reports that the video message and a letter reportedly penned by Weinstein were sent anonymously to several journalists Thursday.

The handwritten letter, dated Oct. 3, 2013, is titled “Letter for Media,” and describes Weinstein’s previous attempts to persuade U.S. negotiators to pursue his release after he was captured in Lahore, Pakistan in 2011. “I have appealed several times to President Obama to help me but to no avail,” he writes, asking the media apply pressure to the U.S. government.

For its part, the State Department called for the hostage’s release. “We're working hard to authenticate this latest report, but we reiterate our call that Warren Weinstein be released and returned to his family,” State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf wrote in an emailed statement. “Particularly during this holiday season - another one away from his family - our hopes and prayers are with him and those who love and miss him.”

John Kruzel is a Slate contributor. You can follow him on Twitter.