WASHINGTON — A look at the lives of four men — two Western hostages and two American terror suspects — who were killed by CIA drone strikes in Pakistan.
The American and Italian aid workers were killed inadvertently in a drone attack targeting al-Qaida in January, U.S. officials said.
The four are:
A 73-year-old aid worker and grandfather from Rockville, Md., Weinstein was held captive for three-and-a-half years.
The business development specialist was abducted by al-Qaida four days before the end of a seven-year assignment in Pakistan.
His wife, Elaine Weinstein, said her husband “spent his entire life working to benefit people across the globe and loved the work that he did to make people’s lives better.”
Weinstein wore traditional Pakistani garments and spoke Urdu in his work as the country director for J.E. Austin Associates, a U.S. firm advising Pakistani businesses and government under contract with the U.S. Agency for International Development. His wife said he “loved and respected the Pakistani people and their culture.”
He was kidnapped from his house in Lahore in August 2011.
Videos of Weinstein appealing for help appeared in 2012 and 2013. In a video sent to reporters in December 2013, Weinstein, bearded and haggard-looking, appealed to President Barack Obama to negotiate his release. It was impossible to tell whether the statement was scripted by his captors.
“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,” he said in the 13-minute video. “And now when I need my government it seems that I have been totally abandoned and forgotten.”
Al-Qaida had said it would free Weinstein if the U.S. halted airstrikes in the Middle East and also demanded the release of all al-Qaida and Taliban suspects around the world. The White House called for Weinstein’s release but said the U.S. wouldn’t negotiate with terrorists.
In her statement, Elaine Weinstein said their family had long hoped that the U.S. and Pakistan would do more to secure his release and “there are no words to do justice to the disappointment and heartache we are going through.”
A local militant, Hafiz Imran, was convicted of a role in the kidnapping and was sentenced to death in January, according to a Pakistani lawyer who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.
GIOVANNI LO PORTO
Friends and co-workers remembered Giovanni Lo Porto, 39, as an amiable man with a profound commitment to aiding the world’s poor.
Hailing from Palermo, Sicily, Lo Porto studied peace and conflict at London Metropolitan University and graduated in 2010.
“Giovanni was a popular student who was committed to helping others,” the university said in a statement.
Italy’s Foreign Ministry called Lo Porto a “generous and expert volunteer.”
Obama, expressing regret for the hostages’ deaths, said that Lo Porto “fell in love with Pakistan and its people, and believed passionately that he could make a difference in their lives.”
Lo Porto joined German aid group Welthungerhilfe in October 2011. He was in Pakistan’s Multan region, managing a project to restore drinking water after devastating floods, when he was kidnapped in January 2012 together with German Bernd Muehlenbeck, said Simone Pott, a spokeswoman for the group.
“He was the kind of guy who had a lot of friends,” Pott said of Lo Porto.
He was experienced and had received security training, she said, “but in the end there’s always a risk.”
Muehlenbeck was freed last year under circumstances that Pott declined to describe.
Those close to Lo Porto held out hope that he, too, would come back. The Italian Foreign Ministry said it had tried for three years to track down Lo Porto and return him to his family.
“We always thought he would return home,” said Margherita Romanelli, of Italian aid group GVC, calling Lo Porto a friend and colleague. “Now we’re without words. But when the moment is right we will ask for light to be shed on the circumstances of his death.”
A spokesman for Osama bin Laden, Gadahn called himself “Azzam the American” in numerous videos promoting al-Qaida.
He became the only American since the World War II era to be charged with treason. The U.S. had offered a $1 million reward for information leading to Gadahn’s arrest.
He was born in 1978 in Oregon as Adam Pearlman. His father, a musician, changed his name from Pearlman to Gadahn in the 1970s. Young Adam grew up on a goat farm in Riverside County, California. He was home-schooled, played Little League ball and was raised as a Christian.
In 1995, at age 17, he converted to Islam at a mosque in nearby Orange County. A few years later he moved to Pakistan, where he joined al-Qaida as a propagandist, making videos that denounced U.S. moves in Afghanistan and elsewhere and threatened attacks on Western interests abroad.
U.S. authorities filed treason charges against him in 2006. The FBI described Gadahn as 5-foot-11, a little more than 200 pounds, with brown hair and scars on his chest and right forearm.
Some tidbits about his work for al-Qaida surfaced in documents leaked by former National Security Agency analyst Edward Snowden.
The documents show that bin Laden’s inner circle was frustrated in 2010 that attention in the U.S. had shifted to the economic downturn without linking al-Qaida to the damage. “All the political talk in America is about the economy, forgetting or ignoring the war and its role in weakening the economy,” Gadahn wrote.
The papers also showed that Gadahn studied U.S. media, advising that CNN was too close to the government and heaping scorn on Fox News which “falls into the abyss, as you know, and lacks neutrality.”
The government said he was killed in a separate drone strike from the one that killed the two hostages and another American tied to al-Qaida.
Farouq was an American who became an al-Qaida leader in Pakistan, the White House says.
He had assumed the title of deputy emir of al-Qaida in the Indian Subcontinent, and was involved in planning terrorist attacks, according to a U.S. official, who said Farouq had dual U.S.-Pakistani citizenship.
The al-Qaida offshoot claimed responsibility for a failed attempt last year to hijack Pakistani naval vessels and use them to attack U.S. warships.
Farouq was considered an up-and-coming leader within the group, according to the terror-tracking website Long War Journal, which cited correspondence recovered from bin Laden’s compound and released in a Brooklyn terror trial.
In a 2010 letter to bin Laden, al-Qaida’s general manager at the time, Atiyah Abd al Rahman, said Farouq knew Arabic well, had management skills, was cultured and possessed a strong will. The letter said Farouq could be invited into the terror group’s elite shura council.
Connie Cass of the Associated Press wrote this report. AP writers Brett Zongker, Matthew Lee, Deb Riechmann and Julie Pace in Washington, Karl Ritter in Rome, and Munir Ahmed in Islamabad, Pakistan, contributed to this report.