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Obama apologizes for drone-strike deaths of two hostages in Pakistan

President Obama apologized to the families of two al-Qaida hostages -- an American and an Italian -- who were killed in January when a drone fired at a terrorist target in Pakistan. An independent review of the attack is underway. Two other U.S. citizens, an al-Qaida leader, as well as the terror network's spokesman, were also reported to have died in drone strikes. Gwen Ifill reports.

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  • GWEN IFILL:

    Presidential confirmation came this morning in the White House briefing room.

  • PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:

    It is a cruel and bitter truth that in the fog of war generally and our fight against terrorists specifically, mistakes, sometimes deadly mistakes, can occur.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    U.S. officials say the two hostages died in mid-January, when a drone fired missiles at a terrorist site inside Pakistan.

  • PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:

    We believed that this was an Al Qaida compound, that no civilians were present and that capturing these terrorists was not possible. And we do believe that the operation did take out dangerous members of Al Qaida. What we did not know, tragically, is that Al Qaida was hiding the presence of Warren and Giovanni in this same compound.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Warren Weinstein had made several video appeals for his release after disappearing in Lahore, Pakistan in 2011. He worked with the U.S. Agency for International Development.

    Italian Giovanni Lo Porto was kidnapped the next year, helping to build homes for Pakistani flood victims.

    Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzo voiced profound pain today over Lo Porto's death.

    And the Weinstein family issued a statement, saying in part "there are no words to do justice to the disappointment and heartbreak we are going through."

    Back at the White House, President Obama offered deepest apologies to the families.

  • PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:

    As president and as commander-in-chief, I take full responsibility for all our counterterrorism operations, including the one that inadvertently took the lives of Warren and Giovanni. I profoundly regret what happened.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    It was left to white house press secretary Josh Earnest to explain why it took three months to announce the deaths.

  • JOSH EARNEST:

    Only in the last several days did the intelligence community reach an assessment with a high degree of confidence that Dr. Weinstein had been killed in a U.S. government counter-terrorism operation.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Earnest said the government will make payments to both families. An independent review of the attack is also under way.

    House Speaker John Boehner suggested Congress, too, will have questions.

    JOHN BOEHNER, Speaker of the House: "We need all the facts, for the families and so that we can make sure that nothing like this ever happens again in our efforts to keep Americans safe."

  • GWEN IFILL:

    It also emerged that Ahmed Farouq — a U.S. Pakistani citizen and Al-Qaeda leader — died in the same raid that killed the hostages.

    Another American — Adam Gadahn — died in a separate drone strike. He had served as a spokesman for the terror network.

    Gadahn was on the FBI's most wanted terrorists list. He was the first American to be charged with treason since world war two.

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