U.S. officials on Monday reiterated that they would not negotiate with Al Qaeda after an American development worker kidnapped last year in Pakistan appeared in a video released by the militant group saying his captors would kill him if President Obama did not meet their demands.
Warren Weinstein, 70, was abducted from his home in an upscale neighborhood of Lahore in August, just days before he was scheduled to finish his work in Pakistan and leave for the U.S. In December, Al Qaeda leader Ayman Zawahiri appeared in a video and stated that his terrorist network was holding Weinstein.
Pakistani officials have said they believe Weinstein is being held somewhere in the country's volatile tribal region along the Afghan border, where Al Qaeda militants and other Islamic extremist groups maintain strongholds.
The two-minute, 40-second video of Weinstein, released Sunday, shows him dressed in a traditional Pakistani tunic as he calmly urges Obama to acquiesce to Al Qaeda's demands. In the December video, Zawahiri demanded an end to all U.S. airstrikes in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen, as well as the release of all Al Qaeda and Taliban militants being detained.
"If you accept the demands, I live," Weinstein said in the video, directing his remarks to Obama. "If you don't accept the demands, then I die."
In Washington, White House spokesman Jay Carney said at a briefing that Obama was aware of the video, though he wasn't sure the president had seen it.
"We remain greatly concerned for Mr. Weinstein's safety and his well-being. Our hearts go out to him and his family," he said. "We condemn his kidnapping in the strongest terms and call for his immediate release.
"The U.S. government will continue making every effort to see Mr. Weinstein released safely to his family, but we cannot and will not negotiate with Al Qaeda."
Sunday's video was posted on militant Internet forums by As Sahab, Al Qaeda's media wing. It is not known when it was made. Weinstein appears alone in the clip.
Addressing his wife, Elaine, Weinstein says: "I'm fine, I'm well, I'm getting all my medications. I'm being taken care of." The hostage, whose home is in Rockville, Md., suffers from asthma and high blood pressure.
He urged Obama to secure his release. "It's important you accept the demands and act quickly and don't delay," he says. "There'll be no benefit in delaying. It will just make things more difficult for me."
Weinstein had been based in Lahore for seven years. At the time of his kidnapping, he was the country director for J.E. Austin Associates, an Arlington, Va., consultant for development projects in Pakistan and a host of other countries. According to the company's website, the firm often works with the U.S. Agency for International Development.
Weinstein's abduction was followed by a spate of kidnappings. One worker with the Red Cross, Khalil Dale of Britain, was found beheaded in Quetta on April 29. His captors left a note saying he was killed because their demands were not met.