ROCKVILLE, Md. (WJZ) — A Maryland man is one of two hostages accidentally killed in a U.S. drone strike near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. Now the government is under fire.
Rick Ritter has more on Dr. Warren Weinstein’s tragic death and reaction from family.READ MORE: Johns Hopkins' Bloomberg School Shortens Commencement In Response To Record Heat
The Maryland man was held captive by al-Qaeda for almost four years. Dr. Weinstein’s family says what they’re feeling right now is simply indescribable.
A Maryland family is torn to pieces.
“He just felt that helping people was the right thing,” said his wife, Elaine Weinstein.
It’s a tragedy the U.S. calls an accident.
“I profoundly regret what happened,” said President Obama.
Since 2011, Dr. Warren Weinstein–an aid worker from Rockville, Maryland–was held captive by al-Qaeda.
Drone strikes conducted in January along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border killed the 73-year-old along with Giovanni Lo Porto–an Italian held hostage since 2012.
The operation targeted the al-Qaeda compound, but President Obama says the U.S. never knew the hostages were being held there.
“I cannot begin to imagine the anguish that the Weinstein and Lo Porto families are enduring today,” the president said.
Last year, Weinstein’s family sat down with Vic Carter, talking about the chance of never seeing their husband or father again.READ MORE: Maryland Weather: Heat Is Here, Alert Day Tomorrow For Record Heat
“It’s there in the back of your mind, all day, all night. You wake up in the middle of the night, that’s the first thing that pops into your head,” Elaine Weinstein said. “Yes, I’m worried about it.”
Outside the Weinstein’s home Thursday, yellow ribbons line the streets in his honor.
The family was not available for an interview, but did release a statement:
In a statement Thursday, the Weinstein family said:
On behalf of myself, our two daughters, our son-in-law, and two grandchildren, we are devastated by this news and the knowledge that my husband will never safely return home. We were so hopeful that those in the U.S. and Pakistani governments with the power to take action and secure his release would have done everything possible to do so and there are no words to do justice to the disappointment and heartbreak we are going through. We do not yet fully understand all of the facts surrounding Warren’s death but we do understand that the U.S. government will be conducting an independent investigation of the circumstances. We look forward to the results of that investigation. But those who took Warren captive over three years ago bear ultimate responsibility. I can assure you that he would still be alive and well if they had allowed him to return home after his time abroad working to help the people of Pakistan.
The cowardly actions of those who took Warren captive and ultimately to the place and time of his death are not in keeping with Islam and they will have to face their God to answer for their actions.
Warren spent his entire life working to benefit people across the globe and loved the work that he did to make people’s lives better. In Pakistan, where he was working before he was abducted, he loved and respected the Pakistani people and their culture. He learned to speak Urdu and did everything he could to show his utmost and profound respect for the region.
We cannot even begin to express the pain our family is going through and we ask for the respect of our privacy as we go through this devastating ordeal.
While working as an economic development advisor, Weinstein was captured from his home in Lahore, Pakistan on August 13, 2011, and was held hostage for more than three and a half years.
I want to thank Congressman John Delaney, Senator Barbara Mikulski, and Senator Ben Cardin – as well as specific officials from the Federal Bureau of Investigation – for their relentless efforts to free my husband. Unfortunately, the assistance we received from other elements of the U.S. Government was inconsistent and disappointing over the course of three and a half years. We hope that my husband’s death and the others who have faced similar tragedies in recent months will finally prompt the U.S. Government to take its responsibilities seriously and establish a coordinated and consistent approach to supporting hostages and their families.
I am disappointed in the government and military in Pakistan. Warren’s safe return should have been a priority for them based on his contributions to their country, but they failed to take action earlier in his captivity when opportunity presented itself, instead treating Warren’s captivity as more of an annoyance than a priority. I hope the nature of our future relationship with Pakistan is reflective of how they prioritize situations such as these.
Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) also issued a statement after learning of Weinstein’s death:
My thoughts and prayers are with the families of Dr. Warren Weinstein and Giovanni Lo Porto. Their legacies of altruism, compassion and service to mankind stand in sharp contrast to that of their captors. Their kidnapping and deaths should further unite the international community against the type of extremists who find this deplorable behavior acceptable.
Warren and his wife Elaine are constituents from Rockville, making this tragedy all the more personal and heart wrenching. I have tracked Warren Weinstein’s status since he was first taken hostage in 2011. The United States government, including members of my staff, worked tirelessly to bring him home safely. The manner in which Dr. Weinstein and Mr. Lo Porto were killed makes this situation all the more difficult to process. He and the men and women like him, of all nationalities, who give of themselves to better the world, are assets to humanity.
The United States and our allies must work to ensure that the men and women who dedicate their lives to international development are properly safeguarded against threats. As Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, I will do all in my power to ensure that Warren Weinstein, his family, and fellow aid workers see justice for his needless suffering at the hands of al-Qaeda. I have received a preliminary briefing from the Director of the CIA, and have requested a full account of the events that led to Dr. Weinstein’s and Mr. Lo Porto’s deaths.
Neighbors who knew Weinstein feared for the worst.
“The longer it went on, the more I thought it’s not going to end well,” said Bob Copaken, family friend.
They’re now sending prayers to his family left behind.
“I can only imagine what it feels like to lose a loved one, so it’s tough. My heart does go out to them,” said Malcolm Barth, neighbor.
“We keep doing whatever we can to make sure he’s not forgotten about and make sure that everyone else is working on bringing him home,” his daughter, Jennifer Coakley, said.
At the time Weinstein was captured back in 2011, he was just days away from returning home to his family.MORE NEWS: Maryland Weather: Summer Heat Moves In For The Weekend
The Obama Administration says it’s conducting a review of the strikes.