By Carol J. Williams
10:41 AM PST, December 26, 2013
An American contractor kidnapped by Al Qaeda in Pakistan two years ago appears in a video that surfaced Thursday pleading with President Obama to negotiate for his release and saying he feels "totally abandoned."
Warren Weinstein, who was snatched from his home in Lahore in August 2011, appears weary and dejected in the 13-minute video bearing the stamp of As-Sahab, Al Qaeda's media operation.
"I am not in good health. I have a heart condition. I suffer from acute asthma," Weinstein, 72, says in the video clip emailed to several journalists covering South Asia, including the Associated Press. "Needless to say, I’ve been suffering deep anxiety every part of every day."
At the time of his kidnapping, Weinstein was working as Pakistan country director for J.E. Austin Associates, a contractor for the U.S. Agency for International Development.
"Mr. President, for the majority of my adult life, for over 30 years, I've served my country," Weinstein says in the video. "Now when I need my government it seems that I have been totally abandoned and forgotten."
The video was accompanied by a letter purportedly written by Weinstein and dated Oct. 3, in which he expresses dismay that his situation has been ignored by the media as well as the U.S. government. The missive pleads for renewed attention to his plight to prevent his being forgotten and becoming "another statistic."
U.S. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said in a statement that her office was "working hard" to authenticate the letter and video.
"We reiterate our call that Warren Weinstein be released and returned to his family," the statement added.
U.S. policy rejects negotiating with terrorists to win release of their captives, but Weinstein proposed that Obama "take hard decisions" now that he is in his second term as president and needn't worry about reelection consequences.
Weinstein suggested that the U.S. administration consider freeing some Al Qaeda figures in its custody, although he didn't mention anyone in particular.
Al Qaeda leader Ayman Zawahiri issued a statement four months after Weinstein's kidnapping to say that the American would be released if the United States ceased airstrikes against militants in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Somalia and Yemen. Zawahiri also demanded release of all Al Qaeda operatives in U.S. custody.
The video was the first news of Weinstein since September 2012, when the captive sent a similar appeal to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, urging him, "as one Jew to another," to comply with Al Qaeda's demands for his release.
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