The Al Qaeda terror group has claimed responsibility for the kidnapping of a Jewish American man in Pakistan, according to an Internet statement released on Thursday.
“Just as the Americans detain all whom they suspect of links to Al Qaeda and the Taliban, even remotely, we detained this man who has had an active part in American aid to Pakistan since the seventies,” Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri said in an audio recording issued on Islamist websites and quoted by Reuters.
The citizen is Warren Weinstein, an American development expert, who was kidnapped in the Pakistani city of Lahore in August.
Reuters noted that Weinstein, who is about 70 years old, had been working on a project in Pakistan’s northwestern tribal areas where Pakistani troops have been battling Islamist insurgents for years.
Joanne Moore, a spokeswoman for the U.S. State Department told Reuters, “We remain concerned for Mr. Weinstein’s safety and well-being. U.S. officials, including the FBI, are assisting in the Pakistani-led investigation.”
She added, “The United States condemns kidnappings of any kind and we call for the immediate release of the individual and the prosecution of those responsible.”
In the audio recording, Zawahri said the group’s demands for Weinstein's release included the release of all those held by the United States at the Guantanamo detention center and all others imprisoned for ties to Al Qaeda or the Taliban.
He also demanded an end to air strikes by the United States and its allies against militants in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia and Gaza.
As well, Zawahri demanded the release of high-profile militants including Ramzi Yousef, imprisoned in the United States for the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, and Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, serving a life sentence for plotting to attack the UN headquarters and other New York City landmarks.
He directly addressed Weinstein’s family and said, “Your problem is not with us but with (President Barack) Obama. We have raised fair demands. ... So continue to pressure Obama, if you want your relative to be handed back.”
According to a report in the British Guardian, Zawahiri also said: "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."