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Warren Weinstein: Who Was the American al Qaeda Hostage Killed in U.S. Op?

Warren Weinstein had been held hostage by al Qaeda since 2011.
/ Source: NBC News

Warren Weinstein was just four days away from finishing a seven-year aid mission when eight gunmen tricked their way past guards and snatched him.

The married father of two from Rockville, Maryland, had dedicated his life to development and aid projects. When he was kidnapped from his heavily-guarded compound in eastern Pakistan's city of Lahore in 2011, Weinstein was wrapping up a stint with the U.S. Agency for International Development.

It was almost three-and-a-half months before al Qaeda admitted they were holding Weinstein hostage. At the time, Osama Bin Laden’s right-hand man Ayman al-Zawahiri said he would not be released until the U.S. met specific demands — including the end of airstrikes in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Over his three and a half years in captivity, Weinstein had issued several video appeals directed at U.S. President Barack Obama to negotiate his release. At times he said he felt abandoned by the American government, speaking of his failing health and desire to be reunited with his family.

In May 2012, Weinstein said he would be killed unless the White House agreed to the terror group's demands. In another message later that year he asked Israel's prime minister for help, accusing the U.S. government of showing “no interest" in his case.

On Thursday, the White House announced that Weinstein — who turned 73 in July — had been inadvertently killed by a U.S. drone strike. Fellow hostage Giovanni Lo Porto, an Italian aid worker, also was killed by the strike. Porto was kidnapped in January 2012 — just three days after arriving in Pakistan to work for a German organization building houses for victims of a 2010 flood.

Obama offered condolences to the family of Porto and Weinstein, a "loving husband, father" and grandfather."

Weinstein's wife, Elaine, said her family was "devastated" by the news her husband "will never safely return home" and said that the U.S. government's assistance had been "disappointing" over the years her husband was held captive. She said she hoped her husband's death would encourage the U.S. to take a "consistent approach" to supporting hostages and their families.

"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," Elaine Weinstein said in a statement. "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."

While his two daughters Jennifer and Alisa were growing up, Weinstein would only take short-term assignments so as not to be away too long, Elaine Weinstein told The Washington Post in a 2013 interview.

In their time apart he would send “oodles and oodles of postcards,” his daughter, Alisa, told the newspaper. “There was usually a story that had to do with the place he was visiting... There was always a history lesson.”

Weinstein served in the peace corps in Togo and the Ivory Coast, later spending more than seven years at USAID and the International Finance Corporation of The World Bank Group.

"Given my health I don’t have time on my side,” he said in a letter he sent the Obama administration from captivity in 2013.

Al Qaeda said in a statement directed at Weinstein's family in August 2014 that it was not interested in keeping the hostage but was "only seeking to exchange him" for its own prisoners. The terror organization accused the U.S. government of wanting the hostage "to die in prison so that it may absolve itself of responsibility regarding his case."

Weinstein is survived by his wife, two daughters and a number of grandchildren.