ISLAMABAD - Al Qaeda claimed responsibility Thursday for the kidnapping of a 70-year-old American aid worker in Pakistan in August, and issued a series of demands for his release.
In a video message posted on militant websites, al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri said Warren Weinstein would be released if the United States stopped airstrikes in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen. He also demanded the release of all al Qaeda and Taliban suspects around the world.
"Just as the Americans detain all whom they suspect of links to al Qaeda and the Taliban, even remotely, we detained this man who is neck-deep in American aid to Pakistan since the 1970s," al-Zawahri said, according to a translation provided by the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors militant messages.
Weinstein was abducted before dawn on August 13 after gunmen tricked his guards and broke into his home. Police and U.S. officials have not publicly said who they believed was holding him, but Islamist militant groups were the main suspects.
Weinstein, who has a home in Rockville, Maryland, worked in Pakistan for several years and spoke Urdu.
He was the country director in Pakistan for J.E. Austin Associates, a U.S.-based firm that advises a range of Pakistani business and government sectors. The company has said Weinstein is in poor health and provided a detailed list of medications, many of them for heart problems, that it implored the kidnappers to give him.
IntelCenter, a private website that monitors terrorism, reports: "The claiming of the kidnapping of American Warren Weinstein by Ayman al-Zawahiri is significant and signals al Qaeda's desire to use the kidnapping to send a very public message. In al Qaeda's entire history such a high-profile claiming of a kidnapping is exceedingly rare. However, it is quite common for al Qaeda's regional arm, al Qaeda in the Land of the Islamic Maghreb, which operates in Africa. Al-Zawahiri's claim and demands will most likely be followed with a hostage video showing Weinstein although it is difficult to know when this would be released."
Intelcenter writes that the eight specific demands of al-Zawahiri are: 1) The complete lifting of restrictions on the movement of people and goods between Egypt and Gaza; 2) The cessation of all types of strikes by America and its allies in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia and Gaza; 3) The release of all prisoners detained due to "suspicion of belonging to al-Qaeda or the Taliban."; 4) The release of all detainees in Guantanamo and "American secret prisons."; 5) The release of Sayyid Nasir and Ramzi Yousif.; 6) The release of Omar Abd-al-Rahman; 7)The release of Osama Bin Laden's family; and 8) The release of all female prisoners "detained due to suspicion of belonging to al-Qaeda or the Taliban, such as Afiyah Sadiqi."