Americans 'accidentally killed' two hostages in counterterrorism op

by Gregory Tomlin, |
U.S. President Barack Obama delivers a statement in the Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House in Washington, April 23, 2015. Obama on Thursday apologized for a counterterrorism operation in January that accidentally killed two aid workers held hostage by al Qaeda, American Warren Weinstein and Italian Giovanni Lo Porto. | REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

WASHINGTON (Christian Examiner) – President Obama delivered brief remarks Thursday about American counterterrorism operations in January that killed two American members of al-Qaeda, but that also resulted in the deaths of two hostages – one American and one Italian.

"Since 9-11, our counterterrorism operations have prevented attacks and saved innocent people both here in America and around the world. That determination to protect innocent life only makes this loss more painful," Obama said of the hostages killed.

California-born al Qaeda member Adam Gadahn is seen in an undated photo distributed by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation. The United States on April 23, 2015 said an American counterterrorism operation in January killed two hostages, one American and one Italian, who were held by al Qaeda in the border region of Afghanistan and Pakistan. The operation in which American doctor Warren Weinstein and Italian Giovanni Lo Porto were killed also resulted in the death of an American al Qaeda leader, Ahmed Farouq, the White House said. Another American al Qaeda member, Adam Gadahn, also was killed, likely in a separate operation, the White House added. | FBI handout via Reuters

An accompanying statement issued by White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Ahmed Farouq, an American who was an al-Qaeda leader, and Adam Gadahn, the tech-savvy California youth who became the face of al-Qaeda in video warnings to Americans, were both killed in the operation in northern Pakistan near the border with Afghanistan. They were the intended targets. The hostages' deaths were inadvertent, Earnest said.

"Our hearts go out to the families of Dr. Warren Weinstein, an American held by al-Qaeda since 2011, and Giovanni Lo Porto, an Italian national who had been an al-Qaeda hostage since 2012. Analysis of all available information has led the intelligence community to judge with high confidence that the operation accidentally killed both hostages," Earnest said in the statement.

Obama said during the White House briefing he was declassifying the information about the operation on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border because "the families deserve to know the truth."

The president noted his profound regret for the loss of the hostages and said he had phoned the Italian authorities to inform them of Lo Porto's death. He also said he contacted the Weinstein family to express his sympathy.

"There are no words than can ever equal their pain. There is nothing I can do to lessen their heartache," Obama said.