Rockville resident Dr. Warren Weinstein was accidentally killed in a January U.S. drone strike targeting al-Qaida, the White House announced Thursday.

Weinstein was a contractor working with the U.S. Agency for International Development when he was captured by al-Qaida in 2011.

 “As president and as commander in chief, I take full responsibility for all our counterterrorism operations,” President Barack Obama said from the White House, “including the one that inadvertently took the lives of Warren” and an Italian aid worker, Giovanni Lo Porto, who was also killed in the attack.

 “I profoundly regret what happened,” Obama said. “On behalf of the United States government, I offer our deepest apologies to the families.”

The White House said an intelligence analysis concluded that both Weinstein and Lo Porto, who had been held hostage since 2012, were killed in an attack targeting an al-Qaida-associated compound in the border region between Afghanistan and Pakistan. No civilians were believed to have been at the compound, Obama said.

“On behalf of myself, our two daughters, our son-in-law, and two grandchildren, we are devastated by this news and the knowledge that my husband will never safely return home,” Weinstein’s wife, Elaine Weinstein, said in a statement.


Another American, Ahmed Farouq, an al-Qaida leader, was killed in the same operation, the White House said, and Adam Gadahn, an American who became a prominent al-Qaida member, was reported to have been killed in a related January strike. Neither had been targeted, Obama said.

Elaine Weinstein expressed frustration that the U.S. and Pakistani governments failed to free her husband and was awaiting the results of a U.S. investigation into the circumstances surrounding his death. Help from the U.S. officials “was inconsistent and disappointing,” she said, and Pakistani officials treated his “captivity as more of an annoyance than a priority.”

“We hope that my husband’s death and the others who have faced similar tragedies in recent months will finally prompt the U.S. Government to take its responsibilities seriously and establish a coordinated and consistent approach to supporting hostages and their families,” she said in a statement.


Weinstein was captured Aug. 13, 2011 at his home in Lahore, Pakistan, where he was working as an economic development adviser for contractor J.E. Austin Associates. He was held hostage for more than 3½ years.

In December 2013, al-Qaeda released a video in which Weinstein pleaded with the Obama administration to negotiate for his release.

“Warren spent his entire life working to benefit people across the globe and loved the work that he did to make people’s lives better,” Elaine Weinstein said.


Rep. John Delaney, D-Maryland, called on the government to improve its response to hostage taking.

“I’m saddened, disappointed and outraged that our government was not able to bring Warren home,” he said in a statement. “Today’s news is a personal tragedy for Warren’s family but also a sobering national security and government failure. As Warren’s representative, I feel like his country failed him in his greatest time of need. I’m determined to ensure that Warren’s story is not forgotten, that we get to the bottom of why Warren wasn’t found and how he was killed, and that we drive tangible improvements to our hostage response process from an intelligence and resources coordination perspective.”