"I take full responsibility for a U.S. government counterterrorism operation that killed two innocent hostages held by al Qaeda," President Barack Obama said Thursday.
Dr. Warren Weinstein, an American held by Al Qaeda group since 2011, and Giovanni Lo Porto, an Italian national who had been held hostage since 2012, were killed in a US operation in January, he stated.
"I want to express our grief and condolences for the families of two hostages," Obama said from the White House briefing room. "Since 9/11, our counterterrorism efforts have prevented terrorism attacks and saved innocent lives, both here in America and around the world, and that determination to protect innocent life only makes the loss of these two men especially painful for all of us," he added.
"Analysis of all available information has led the Intelligence Community to judge with high confidence that the operation accidentally killed both hostages,” according to a statement released by the White House. “The operation targeted an al-Qaeda-associated compound, where we had no reason to believe either hostage was present, located in the border region of Afghanistan and Pakistan. No words can fully express our regret over this terrible tragedy.”
In a video released by al Qaeda in 2012, Weinstein, a former peace corps official abducted from his home in Lahore, Pakistan, pleaded with President Obama to comply with the terrorists’ demands.
“My life is in your hands, Mr. President,” he said. “If you accept the demands, I live. If you don’t accept the demands, then I die.”
“I've done a lot of service for my country, and I would hope that my country will now look after me and take care of me and meet the demands of the mujahedeen,” he added.
Though the administration said that the operation was “lawful and conducted consistent with our counter-terrorism policies,” Obama promised a thorough independent review.