Wife of man held in Pakistan urges release

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Warren Weinstein

(AP Photo)

(AP) – The wife of a Maryland man abducted in Pakistan is pleading for his safe return on the one-year anniversary of his kidnapping, saying her husband is in poor health and is missed by grandchildren who ask for him every day.

Warren Weinstein, a 71-year-old aid worker from Rockville, Md., was kidnapped last August after gunmen tricked his guards and broke into his home in the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore. Al-Qaida released a video in May in which Weinstein said he would be killed unless President Barack Obama agreed to the group’s demands. It was not clear when the video was recorded.

The White House has called for Weinstein’s immediate release but has said it won’t negotiate with al-Qaida.

His wife, Elaine, observed the anniversary of his disappearance Monday with a statement urging his release. She said he suffers from a heart condition, severe asthma and high blood pressure and fears that his health “will deteriorate if he is not allowed to see the doctors and specialists that have helped keep him alive in recent years.”

“Our grandchildren are growing and changing so fast. They miss their grandfather and ask for him every day. It is so difficult to explain why he can’t be with them,” the statement reads in part. “It is impossible to describe the pain and sadness my daughters and I feel. We are simply heart sick. I always imagined growing old with Warren and enjoying our family together.”

Weinstein was the country director in Pakistan for J.E. Austin Associates, a U.S.-based development contractor that advises different Pakistani business and government sectors.

The company has said Weinstein worked with a wide range of Pakistani government agencies, and that his efforts to make Pakistani industries more competitive have helped create hundreds of well-paying jobs and raise the standard of living in communities where the businesses are located. He had told his staff he expected to wrap up his latest project and move out of Pakistan within days.

“Warren loves Pakistan and lived there for eight years so he could dedicate his time and energy to working with the people. I don’t understand why he was taken,” Elaine Weinstein said in her statement.

In the video released in May by al-Qaida’s media arm and posted on militant websites, Weinstein sits in front of a white background, near books and what appears to be a plate of food, and makes a direct appeal to the president.

“My life is in your hands, Mr. President,” Weinstein says. “If you accept the demands, I live; if you don’t accept the demands, then I die.”

The video came several months after one released in December by current al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahri, who said Weinstein would be released if the U.S. halted airstrikes in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen. He also demanded the release of all al-Qaida and Taliban suspects around the world.

The FBI has been investigating the kidnapping, but Jacqueline Maguire, a spokeswoman for the FBI’s Washington field office, said the bureau cannot discuss ongoing investigations.

Mike Redwood, who works in the leather industry and has done business with Weinstein in Pakistan, said Monday that he thought “to some degree, no news is good news” and still held out hope for a safe return. He said he still can’t believe Weinstein was kidnapped because of the positive contributions he had made to the Pakistani economy.

“He worked tirelessly to improve the industry, to increase employment and to help strengthen its role in the world,” Redwood said. “It’s just unbelievable that anyone should kidnap him and think that’s a wise or a correct thing to do.”

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