Two Western al Qaeda hostages, one an American, were accidentally killed in an operation – reportedly a drone strike – that was launched with the goal of killing terrorists along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.
The American hostage, Warren Weinstein, had been held since 2011 after being kidnapped in Lahore, Pakistan. The other hostage was Italian aid worker Giovanni Lo Porto, who had been in al-Qaeda captivity since 2012.
U.S. officials were apparently unaware the hostages were present when the strike was ordered. Also killed during the operation was Ahmed Farouq, an American who was an al-Qa’ida leader.
President Obama announced the deaths during an unscheduled appearance in the White House briefing room. He took responsibility for the operations, strongly expressed his regret, and said a probe was being conducted to try to avoid such mistakes in the future. He took no questions.
“We believed that this was a al Qaeda compound, that no civilians were present, and that capturing these terrorist was not possible,” Obama said.
Meanwhile, Adam Gadahn, an American who became well known as a spokesman for al Qaeda, was killed in a separate operation, the White House said. Neither of the terrorists were specifically targeted.
Both incidents occurred in January. Obama said he authorized the declassification of the operations as soon as the cause of the hostages’ deaths was determined.