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Thursday, December 26, 2013

‘I Have Been Totally Abandoned and Forgotten,’ Captive Says

An American kidnapped in Pakistan more than two years ago has sent an impassioned video message to President Obama, imploring the administration to negotiate with his captors for his release and saying he felt “abandoned and forgotten.”

As my colleague Salman Masood reported, Warren Weinstein, 72, was abducted from the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore in August 2011 when a group of armed men broke into his house.

The video was released by Al Sahab, the media wing of Al Qaeda, and first reported on Thursday by journalists working in Pakistan, including for The Associated Press and The Washington Post.

Here are excerpts:

My name is Warren Weinstein. I am addressing this video to President Obama.

It has been more than two years since I was taken prisoner by Al Qaeda while I was working as a consultant on U.S. government programs in Pakistan. I am now over 72 years of age. I am not in good health. I have a heart condition. I suffer from acute asthma. The years have taken their toll.

I have been cut off from my family. My wife who is over 70, my two daughters, my two grandchildren, my son-in-law and perhaps new members of the family whom I have never met. Needless to say I have been suffering deep anxiety every part of every day. Not knowing what is happening to my family. Not knowing how they are. And because I am not with them.

In the 13-minute video, Mr. Weinstein mentioned his public and government service over 30 years, such as his work in the Peace Corps in West Africa and for the Agency for International Development. At the time he was abducted, he worked as the Pakistan director for J. E. Austin Associates, an international development consulting company based in Arlington, Va.

Nine years ago I came to Pakistan to help my government and I did so at a time when most Americans would not come here. And now when I need my government it seems that I have been totally abandoned and forgotten.

You are now in your second term as president of the United States. And it seems you can now take hard decisions without worrying about re-election. And so I again appeal to you to instruct your appropriate officials to negotiate my release.

In order to alleviate my pain and suffering and to help me to re-establish my health I have asked my captors if they will allow my family to visit me. They have agreed to do so. But they have done so on the basis that you will make an agreement, an arrangement with them that will provide a quid pro quo with respect to their people who are being held as prisoner.

Mr. Obama, you are a family man, and so you understand the deep mental anxiety and anguish that I have been experiencing for these past more than two years. I am therefore appealing to you on a humanitarian basis, if nothing else, and asking that you take the necessary actions to expedite my release and my return to my family and to my country, to our country.

I am also appealing to you as someone who has served his country and who now needs his country to help him. I hope and I pray to God that you as leader of the United States along with your administration will feel an adequate level of responsibility towards me to work for my release.

The video was the second since his capture in which he directly addressed Mr. Obama. He appeared in another video in 2012 saying he was fine, and getting medications, but he asked Mr. Obama to cede to his captors’ 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.”

The Site Intelligence Group posted another Al Sahab video of Mr. Weinstein last year.

In the video released on Thursday, Mr. Weinstein also directed his plea to Secretary of State John Kerry, emphasizing that he had worked on conflict resolution in parts of Africa and Asia.

I understand how difficult it is to work in these areas, yet I am appealing to you to take interest in my case and to use your skills to help the Obama government to achieve my release.

As a first step I would ask that you take action with respect to their people who are being held as prisoners. Action that would be acceptable to my captors so that they will allow my family to visit me. I think you can well understand how important that is to me. And how much it will do to help me re-establish my good health.

If anyone in the administration, if anyone in the Obama government, can understand my predicament and the need for serious and straightforward negotiation to obtain my freedom it is yourself. Like Mr. Obama, you are also a family man, so I am asking you to please make the time and make the effort to take up my case and negotiate my release and reunite me with my family.

I hope that one day soon I will be able to meet you as a free man and to thank you for your efforts.

Mr. Weinstein appeared gaunt. He was dressed in a tracksuit and a dark cap. He asked the media to pursue his story, and then finished with a message to his family, telling them not to lose hope.

I would like them to know that I love them very much. That I think about each and every one of them every moment of every day of my captivity.

Unless you continue to try to get President Obama and his administration to actively pursue my release, we may never see each other again.

Follow Christine Hauser on Twitter @christineNYT.