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American al-Qaeda hostage pleads for release

RAW VISION: Held for two years by al-Qaeda, Warren Weinstein asks US President Barack Obama to intervene.

PT1M59S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2zygj 620 349

Islamabad: An American development consultant abducted by al-Qaeda in Pakistan more than two years ago has urged President Barack Obama to help secure his freedom in an impassioned video message released by the group.

The consultant, 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. Mr Weinstein worked as the Pakistan director for J. E. Austin Associates, an international development consulting company based in Virginia.

The video by Al Sahab, the media wing of al-Qaeda, was first reported by The Washington Post on Thursday.

In a 13-minute video message, Mr Weinstein, bearded and wearing a light-coloured jacket and a dark cap, appeared distraught and dejected when he spoke about his family, his ill health and his time in captivity.

"I am not in good health," he said, looking at the camera. "The years have taken their toll."

Mr Weinstein said he had served his country for 30 years and that nine years ago he came to Pakistan to help the US government.

"I did so at a time when most Americans would not come here," he said. "And now, when I need my government, it seems that I have been totally abandoned and forgotten."

Mr Weinstein said his captors had agreed to let him meet with his family if al-Qaeda members held by the United States were released.

"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," he said. "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."

He also asked Secretary of State John Kerry for help.

A handwritten letter, purportedly drafted by Mr Weinstein, was also distributed along with the video message to local media outlets. It was dated October 3, 2013.

This was the second video statement by Mr Weinstein. An earlier video in which he made a similar plea was released by al-Qaeda in 2012.

Mr Weinstein's kidnapping came at a time when relations between the United States and Pakistan were deeply strained after a security contractor for the CIA shot and killed two Pakistanis in Lahore.

Ihsanullah Tipu Mehsud contributed reporting.

New York Times