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American kidnapped in Pakistan begs Obama to negotiate with al Qaeda for his release

The captors of Warren Weinstein, an American kidnapped in Pakistan, have released a video showing him talking about his confinement and asking the U.S. to do more to work for his release. NBC News' Pete Williams reports.

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — A U.S. contractor kidnapped more than two years ago by al Qaeda militants in Pakistan pleaded with President Barack Obama to negotiate his release in a video message published Thursday.

Warren Weinstein said he feels "totally abandoned and forgotten" by the Obama administration, in the video sent to the Washington Post.

"You are now in your second term as president of the United States and that means that you can take hard decisions without worrying about reelection," he said in the 13-minute video.

"I hope and pray to God that you, as leader of the United States, along with your administration, will feel an adequate level of responsibility toward me and work for my release."

Weinstein, a development expert form Rockville, Md., said he was working as a consultant on U.S. government programs when he was captured from his home in Lahore.

The Pakistani police officer who initially investigated Weinstein's case told NBC News that "everybody [in Pakistan] knows" the U.S. citizen was taken to the semi-autonomous tribal area near the Afghan border. The central Pakistani government has little to no control in these regions.

Recalling the 2011 incident, Rana Ghafoor, sub-inspector of Lahore Police, said Thursday: "Weinstein was beaten and kidnapped when eight to nine kidnappers pretending to be neighbors entered his house in the early morning in Aug. 2011. They neutralized his staff and guards in the process. It was all over within a few minutes." 

Weinstein has recorded at least two similar video messages since he was captured. In May 2012 he told Obama "my life is in your hands, Mr. President." Then, in September the same year, he posted a video claiming Obama was ignoring his case and asking Israel "as a Jew…please intervene in my case."

Mike Redwood / AP, file

Warren Weinstein, pictured in England in January 2009.

In the latest video, Weinstein did not specify what steps he wanted the U.S. to take to negotiate his release.

He did say his captors had agreed to let his family visit him, in exchange for the U.S. releasing "their people who are being held as prisoners," in a "quid pro quo" deal. He did not name the prisoners to whom he was referring.

The United States has a policy of not negotiating ransoms or exchange deals with kidnappers.

He appealed to Obama as "a family man," and said he suffered "deep anxiety, every part of everyday" not knowing what has happened to his 72-year-old wife, his two children, and other family members.

Weinstein said he came to Pakistan nine years ago "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 I have been totally abandoned," he said.

He added that he was suffering from a heart condition and acute asthma and was "not in good health."

The Washington Post reported that the State Department and Weinstein’s family said on Wednesday night that they had not independently received the video or note. The newspaper said it had provided copies to both.

Marie Harf, spokeswoman for the State Department, later said that U.S. officials were "working hard to authenticate" the message.

"We reiterate our call that Warren Weinstein be released and returned to his family,” she said in a statement. "Particularly during this holiday season — another one away from his family — our hopes and prayers are with him and those who love and miss him."

Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri said in Dec. 2011 Weinstein would be freed if the U.S. halted air strikes in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Somalia and Yemen.


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