Articles by Amir Mir

Even ransom money failed to secure Weinstein’s release

Islamabad: (The News) The slain American hostage Warren Weinstein could have been released had his captors not gone back on their deal after pocketing $250,000 in ransom money from his family way back in 2012.

Warren Weinstein, 73, was killed three months ago [on January 15, 2015] in a US drone attack in the Shawal area of North Waziristan on the Pak-Afghan border where he was being held captive. However, strangely enough, his captors continued to negotiate with the intermediary even after the killing of the US aid worker, just to ensure that they get the ransom money. Going by the American media reports that have cited a Pakistani intermediary as the source, even after the drone strike that killed him in January 2015, the kidnappers spoke of handing Weinstein over to the Baghdadi-led IS, never hinting that he was already. According to the intermediary who spoke directly with Weinstein’s kidnappers, the $250,000 ransom money had been handed over to al-Qaeda abductors in the form of $100 bills in 2012 in Peshawar about a year after his capture. “The money was delivered, but Weinstein didn’t show up,” the intermediary has been quoted by the US media as saying.

According to these reports, the Pakistani authorities even had a helicopter ready to fly Weinstein to the US Embassy in Islamabad, upon his expected release after paying the ransom money. Instead, the kidnappers, who had described themselves as Afghans, made new demands, after getting hold of the money. They came up with the demand to release a Pakistani prisoner Dr. Aafia Siddiqi in exchange for his life. A letter written by a little known group “Qaeda al-Jehad” and addressed to the family of Weinstein had sought to keep the prisoner in exchange for the release of prisoners. “Your continued silence on the inaction of your government (American) will only lead to your prisoner dying a lonely death after this deliberate and prolonged neglect on the part of your government. “Therefore, if you want Weinstein to be released alive, do whatever you can to pressurize your government.”

The Weinstein family has shed little light on the clandestine ransom plot, saying only that they had sought out efforts to rescue him. There are reports that his wife Elaine Weinstein had spoken by phone with her hostage husband in a “proof of life” telephone call prior to the ransom money being handed over to his captors. A Weinstein family spokesman has been quoted by the American media as saying: “Over the 3 1/2-year period of Warren’s captivity, the family made every effort to engage with those holding him or those with the power to find and rescue him. Weinstein got along well with his captors. He spoke Urdu, the national language of Pakistan, and learned to speak with his kidnappers in another local language, Pashto. His family sent a lot of money to keep him alive on medicine for the heart. Otherwise, he would have been dead long ago.”

Warren Weinstein’s wife has already expressed disappointment with the American and Pakistani governments’ efforts to secure her husband’s release from his captors, adding that the assistance her family received from the US government was inconsistent and disappointing. “I hope that my husband’s death and the others who have faced similar tragedies will finally prompt the US government to take its responsibilities seriously and establish a coordinated and consistent approach to supporting hostages and their families,” she added.

The White House has subsequently announced considering setting up a “fusion cell,” or “task force”, to better communicate with hostage families and integrate the multiple agencies responsible for the rescue of captives. While Weinstein’s tragic death in a US drone attack focused attention on the Obama administration’s use of drones in the war against terror, President Obama did not hesitate the other day to hail the American spy operations as the best in world. Only a day earlier, Obama had conceded during a press conference while making public Warren Weinstein’s death that the American intelligence was unaware of Weinstein’s presence inside the al-Qaeda compound when it was targeted by the drones in January 2015.

Warren Weinstein, who was from Rockville, Maryland, was a tenured political science professor at State University of New York at Oswego in the 1970s. After leaving SUNY Oswego, he joined the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and went on to become the Pakistan country director for JE Austin Associates, a development contractor for the US government.


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