Use Your Voice

Sign up for our newsletter

Warren Weinstein


Country: Pakistan

Kidnapped: August 13, 2011

Status: Killed


Warren Weinsten’s abduction and captivity is another painful example of terrorist groups leveraging global media to showcase hostages and make demands in exchange for their release.  It also underscores the moral dilemmas that families and governments encounter when faced with prospect of negotiating with terrorists for the release of an innocent man.  Warren Weinstein was abducted in Pakistan in 2011, and has since been held by al-Qaeda extremists in an unknown location. His captors have released three proof of life videos as an attempt to force the Obama Administration to bow to their demands.  In the most recent video, Weinstein’s captors also coerced him to appeal to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to accept al-Qaeda’s terms.  As is all too often the case in such circumstances, the US government has been unable to locate and rescue Weinstein.  Not knowing where to turn as an alternative, family members assume the driver’s seat of the crisis and must struggle to navigate the complexities, conduct independent investigations, and make pleas for the victim’s release.  Weinstein remained in captivity until he was accidentally killed by US drone strike on the Afghanistan- Pakistan border. 


After earning a master’s degree in international relations and a PhD in international law and economics from Columbia University, Warren Weinstein devoted his life to international development.  He worked in the field for thirty years.

His last position was the Pakistan country director for Virginia-based development company J.E. Austin Associates.  He was finishing up a four-year project funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) involving dairy, horticulture, furniture, and medical equipment when he went missing

Case Report

On August 13, 2011 men posing as neighbors knocked on Weinstein’s front door.  The men offered Weinstein’s guards meals, an act of sharing common during Ramadan.  More men, armed with guns, used the back door to break into the house.  They overpowered the guards and tied their hands behind their backs.  They coerced Weinstein’s driver to knock on the bedroom door.  When Weinstein answered, the men seized him.

“al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri claimed responsibility for the kidnapping”

Pakistani police held three of Weinstein’s security guards and his driver for months as they investigated the case.  Over three months after the kidnapping took place, al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri claimed responsibility for the kidnapping.  Ayman al-Zawahiri demanded several things in exchange for Weinstein’s release.  Among these things was the release of Aafia Siddique, Omar Abdul Rehman, the family of Osama bin Laden, and “every single person arrested on allegations of links with Al Qaeda and Taliban.”  He also demanded there be an end to air strikes by the U.S. and its allies against militants in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia, and Gaza. 

“The video stated Weinstein would be killed unless President Obama agreed to their demands.”

In May of 2012 a proof of life video of Weinstein was shown on several extremist websites, but there was no indication as to when the video was made.  The video stated Weinstein would be killed unless President Obama agreed to their demands.

In September of 2012 a second video was released.  In this video Weinstein appealed to the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.  He asked Netanyahu to help him by accepting the terms of al Qaeda.  A third proof of life video was released in December of 2013.  Weinstein stated his captors would let his family visit him if prisoners are released by the Obama administration. 


Weinstein was held in captivity nearly three years after his abduction.  At seventy-two years old, his health was a concern, and no new videos were released since December of 2013. 

In a press conference in April 2015, President Obama announced Weinstein was killed in a January 2015 US drone strike on the Afghanistan- Pakistan border. Weinstein leaves behind his wife of forty-six years, two daughters, and grandchildren.