Two hostages, an American and an Italian, were killed during anti-terrorism operations and President Barack Obama took “full responsibility” for the loss of their lives, which happened during a drone strike against al-Qaida in January.
“It is a cruel and bitter truth that in the fog of war generally, and our fight against terrorists specifically, mistakes, sometimes deadly mistakes can occur,” Obama told reporters.
Warren Weinstein, an American, had been held by al-Qaida since 2011 and Giovanni Lo Porto, an Italian national, had been held hostage since 2012, The Hill reported. They were both aid workers serving in Pakistan at the time of their abductions. The strike also killed another American, Ahmed Farouq, who was an al-Qaida leader.
"The operation targeted an al-Qaida-associated compound, where we had no reason to believe either hostage was present, located in the border region of Afghanistan and Pakistan," White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said in a statement released minutes before Obama spoke. "No words can fully express our regret over this terrible tragedy."
Obama said he spoke to Weinstein’s wife and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi on April 22. “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 said with a sigh. “I realize there are no words that can ever equal their loss, I know there is nothing I can ever say or do to ease their heartache.”
Obama said he ordered information about the attack to be unclassified after he learned hostages were accidentally killed. “I did so because the Weinstein and Lo Porto families deserve to know the truth,” he said. “And I did so because, even as certain aspects of our national security have to remain secret in order to succeed, the United States is a democracy committed to openness, in good times and in bad.”
Weinstien’s family said it was grateful for all efforts to free him but found "other elements of the U.S. government was inconsistent and disappointing.” Elaine, Weinstien’s wife, said in a statement: "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.”
House Speaker John Boehner said he supported Obama’s decision to order an independent review of the incident. "We need all the facts — for the families and so that we can make sure nothing like this ever happens again in our efforts to keep Americans safe,” he said.
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