A CIA drone strike in Pakistan killed American and Italian aid workers Warren Weinstein and Giovanni Lo Porto, both of whom were being held hostage at an al Qaeda compound. According to the Wall Street Journal, the January strike was the first known instance of a U.S. drone inadvertently killing hostages.
President Obama gave a statement about the men’s deaths following an announcement from his press office this morning. “As president and as commander-in-chief, I take full responsibility for all our counter-terrorism operations, including the one that inadvertently took the lives of Warren and Giovanni,” Obama said. “I profoundly regret what happened. On behalf of the United States government, I offer our deepest apologies to the families.” According to the White House, the strike that killed Weinstein and Lo Porto also killed Ahmed Farouq, an American al Qaeda leader. Adam Gadahn, another American al Qaeda member, was also killed in January, “likely in a separate U.S. Government counterterrorism operation,” the statement reads.
The CIA had observed what they believed to be a senior al Qaeda member entering the compound in the days just before the strike but intelligence analysts didn’t know that it was Mr. Farouq, the officials said.
Similarly, the CIA didn’t know that Mr. Gadahn was at the compound that it bombed later in the month.
The White House normally would need to seek special legal clearances to directly target American citizens suspected of plotting attacks against the U.S. That process didn’t apply in these cases because Messrs. Farouq and Gadahn weren’t being directly targeted in the operations, officials said.
The White House will declassify the existence of the operation that killed Weinstein and Lo Porto, and plans to conduct a review of the incident. Weinstein’s family released the following statement demanding an “independent investigation of the circumstances” that led to his death.
NEW: Family of Dr. Warren Weinstein, hostage slain in US counterterrorism operation, releases statement. pic.twitter.com/9BQJc1myaSApril 23, 2015