WASHINGTON: President Barack Obama on Thursday said he takes “full responsibility” for a counter-terrorism operation on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border that inadvertently killed an American and an Italian hostage held by Al Qaeda.
Warren Weinstein, an American, and Giovanni Lo Porto, an Italian, were killed in the raid in the border region of Afghanistan and Pakistan. President Barack Obama described it as a painful loss he profoundly regretted.
Obama said the operation was in compliance with the White House’s counter-terrorism protocols. It’s a “bitter truth in the fog war” that mistakes occur, but what sets America apart is facing up squarely to its mistakes, he said.
“As a husband and as a father, I cannot begin to imagine the anguish that the Weinstein and Lo Porto families are enduring today,” Obama told reporters, with a deep sigh, saying he took responsibility for the deaths and has ordered a full review.
The president, speaking at the White House about the operation that killed the hostages, said the US had launched the raid in the belief the target was an al-Qaeda compound with no civilians present.
Two other Americans thought to be al-Qaeda members were also killed, one of them in the same raid.
The White House said Ahmed Farouq, an al-Qaeda leader, was killed in that operation and Adam Gadahn, once regarded as a spokesman for the militant group, was killed in a separate raid.
The two hostages, Warren Weinstein, an American kidnapped in Lahore in 2011, and Giovanni Lo Porto, an Italian seized in Multan in 2012, were killed on Jan. 15 in a remote area in Pakistan known as a Qaeda sanctuary. An American affiliated with Al Qaeda, Ahmed Farouq, was killed in the same strike. Another American member of Al Qaeda, Adam Gadahn, was killed in a separate strike in the same region on Jan. 19, according to the officials.
In a message released previously in English and Arabic and addressed to Weinstein’s family, Al Qaeda had said it was “not interested in keeping” Weinstein but wanted to exchange him for prisoners in U.S. custody.
Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi expressed his “profound pain” over Lo Porto’s death, saying the aid worker had “dedicated his life to the service of others.”