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After Daniel Pearl, another Jew becomes Qaeda's target

May 10, 2012 13:00 IST

Warren Weinstein, the first American citizen to be taken hostage by Al Qaeda linked terrorists in Pakistan since Daniel Pearl, is also a Jewish American like the ill-fated journalist. Amir Mir reports

Pakistani intelligence agencies investigating the abduction of American Warren Weinstein have concluded that the key reason behind the kidnapping of the 71-year old was because he was a Jewish American.

Weinstein, the country director of a United States based consultancy firm which works with the USAID, was kidnapped from Lahore in August 2011

Daniel Pearl, the American journalist who was abducted by militants from Karachi in January 2002 and later brutally killed, was also Jewish.

Weinstein, the country director for JE Austin Associates, was abducted from his Lahore residence in the Model Town area on August 13, 2011 by 11 armed men. The men  reportedly belonged to the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, an Al Qaeda linked anti-US and anti-Shia organisation.

On December 1, a few months after Weinstein's abduction, Al Qaeda chief Ayman Zawahiri claimed responsibility for the abduction in a video message. He stated that the detained American would be freed if the United States stopped drone strikes in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia and freed prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. 

After analysing the content of the 31-minute Zawahiri video, Pakistani intelligence officials have concluded that the prime motive behind Warren Weinstein's abduction was his ethnic identity.

In the video message, Zawahiri has clearly mentioned the fact that Al Qaeda has abducted a Jewish American.

"I tell the captive soldiers of Al Qaeda and the Taliban and our female prisoners held in the prisons of the crusaders and their collaborators, we have not forgotten you and in order to free you, we have taken hostage the Jewish American Warren Weinstein," he said.

"Your problem is not with us but with President Barack Obama. We have raised fair demands. So continue to pressure him to accept the same if you want your relative to be handed back," Zawahiri added while addressing the family of Dr Weinstein.

Although the judge of an anti-terrorism court issued an arrest warrant for Zawahiri last week for his involvement in Weinstein's abduction, Law Minister of Pakistan's Punjab Rana Sanaullah continued to insist that the American was a suspected individual who was involved in mysterious activities.

According to the law minister, the investigation has revealed that Weinstein was not engaged in any sort of development project in Lahore.

"The Punjab government made repeated requests to Dr Warren to accept personal security but he turned a deaf ear to the requests. This act gives rise to the suspicion that he was involved in suspicious activities and did not want anyone to watch his movements," Sanaullah recently told the media in Lahore.

On May 6, 2012, Al Qaeda released the first ever video of Weinstein, wherein he was shown pleading with Obama to accept the Al Qaeda's demands to ensure his release.

The videotape, which was produced by Al Qaeda's propaganda wing and is titled "A Message from the Prisoner Warren Weinstein to His President", Weinstein directly addresses Obama, and begs the President to accept Al Qaeda's terms for his release.

"I would like to talk to President Obama and ask him -- beg him -- that he accept and respond to the demands of the mujahideen, for my life is in your hands Mr President," Warren said, according to a transcript of his statement.

"If you accept their demands, I live; if you don't accept their demands, then I die. It's important that you accept the demands and act quickly and don't delay. There will be no benefit in delaying as it will just make things more difficult for me," Warren appealed to Obama, adding that the President is "not paying any attention about my problem or my needs."

The video was released almost a week after the bullet-riddled body of a British employee of the International Committee of the Red Cross, who was kidnapped four months earlier from Quetta, was found on April 29.

Dr Khalil Ahmed Dale, a British national, was kidnapped on January 5 by Taliban militants and shot dead following the failure of the British authorities to fulfill their demands.

However, the White House has refused to negotiate with the Al Qaeda for Warren's release.

"Our hearts go out to Warren and his family. We condemn his kidnapping and call for his immediate release. The US government will continue making every effort to see that Weinstein is released safely to his family, but we cannot and will not negotiate with the Al Qaeda," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told media personnel in Washington on May 7.

Similarly, deputy spokesman of the US State Department Mark Toner also rejected the possibility of giving in to the demands made in the video.

"As you know, we don't make concessions to terrorists," he said, adding that the authenticity of the released video was still being ascertained. When asked if the video proved that Warren was still alive, Toner said that appropriate agencies were looking into the matter.

"But taking this video at face value, yes, he seems to be alive. But we haven't done the rigorous analysis. We can't even right now say for certain that it is a credible video of him. I think the analysis is going on about when it was taken and whether it is a valid video of him," said Toner.

Pakistani intelligence agencies believe that the refusal of the Obama administration to negotiate with Al Qaeda for Warren's release may spell doom for him, as had been the case with Pearl.

Warren is the first private American citizen to be taken hostage by Al Qaeda linked terrorists in Pakistan since Pearl was kidnapped on January 23, 2002, only to be beheaded after the refusal of the George W Bush administration to negotiate for his release.

Amir Mir In Islamabad