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April 24, 2015

US drone kills own citizen, Italian national

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April 24, 2015

PESHAWAR: The White House on Thursday broke its silence after four months and admitted to have accidentally killed its elderly national Dr Warren Weinstein and Italian citizen Giovanni Lo Porto in January this year in the tribal areas straddling the Pak-Afghan border in pursuit of senior al-Qaeda leaders.
“It is with tremendous sorrow that we recently concluded that a US government counterterrorism operation in January killed two innocent hostages held by al-Qaeda,” the White House stated in a statement on Thursday.
Dr Warren Weinstein was an American and had reportedly been held by al-Qaeda since 2011. The Italian, Giovanni Lo Porto, had been an al-Qaeda hostage since 2012.The White House statement said that analysis of all the available information had led the intelligence community to judge with high confidence that the operation accidentally killed both the hostages.
It said that the operation targeted an al-Qaeda-associated compound located in the border region of Afghanistan and Pakistan, where they had no reason to believe either hostage was present.
US officials believe that two other Americans were recently killed in a US drone strike in the same region.They believe Ahmad Farooq, an American who was an al-Qaeda leader, was killed in the same operation that resulted in the deaths of Dr Weinstein and Lo Porto.
Besides Ahmad Farooq, the US authorities believed to have killed Adam Gadahn, an American who became a prominent member of al-Qaeda, in a separate US drone strike in January. According to the statement, the operation was though lawful and conducted consistent with their counterterrorism policies, they were still conducting a thorough independent review to understand fully what happened and how they could prevent this type of tragic incident in future.
Senior members of the Pakistan and Afghan Taliban denied that the US national, Dr Warren Weinstein, and Italian national Giovanni Lo Porto would have been killed mistakenly by the

US drones in the Pakistani tribal areas in January.
Usama Mahmood, a spokesman for al-Qaeda in the Subcontinent, in an audio statement stated that Ustad Ahmad Farooq, who was the deputy head of al-Qaeda in the Subcontinent, was killed along with other fighters in Pakistan’s remote and mountainous Shawal Valley on January 25, 2015.
Ahmad Farooq’s real name was Raja Muhammad Salman and he had studied at the Islamic University, Islamabad, before joining al-Qaeda.He remained close to Osama bin Laden, Dr Ayman al-Zawahiri, Abu Yazeed al-Misri, Abu Yahya and other senior al-Qaeda commanders in the Pakistan-Afghanistan region.
Usama Mahmood said Ahmad Farooq had been associated with al-Qaeda for the past seven years in the Af-Pak region.The slain al-Qaeda leader for Pakistan-Afghanistan, Abu Mustafa Yazeed al-Misri, had appointed him in place of Dr Waheed Arshad after his death. The head of Al-Qaeda in Subcontinent, Maulana Asim, was later made his deputy.
Usama Mahmood said five US drones had been chasing him for 40 days continuously in North Waziristan.He said Ahmad Farooq shifted to the Shawal Valley when Pakistani troops launched a military operation against the militants in North Waziristan last year.
Usama Mahmood and other Taliban sources denied that the US or an Italian national was present with Ustad Ahmad Farooq when he and his men were killed in the drone strike.According to Taliban sources, a group of Punjabi Taliban, having close association with al-Qaeda in the region, had kidnapped Dr Warren Weinstein.
Later, they transported him to North Waziristan where al-Qaeda and other militant groups had a presence.On June 15, 2014 when Pakistan’s security forces began a major offensive against the militants in North Waziristan, all the militant groups, including al-Qaeda, shifted their captives to the Shawal Valley near the Afghan border, where they had set up sanctuaries in the mountains covered by dense forests.
According to Taliban sources, Ustad Ahmad Farooq was reading Jihadi literature when he came under drone strike. The drone fired two missiles and struck the house where he and his men were staying.
The Taliban sources had no information about the killing of the US-born Adam Gadahn, also known as Azam, the American.Some members of the militant groups suspected that he was probably killed in Shawal Valley on January 28 because after the drone strike, the Arab militants didn’t allow even people close to them to visit the site of the attack.
Usama Mahmood said that out of the 11 drone attacks, 10 were carried out against the al-Qaeda in North Waziristan this year. He said they lost 50 commanders and fighters and a similar number of local supporters in these 10 drone strikes.
However, senior members of the Afghan Taliban said the US forces always tried to kill their kidnapped citizens in the same place instead of securing their release through any deal.“Look, Bowe Bergdahl was in our captivity. The drone several times tried to kill him in North Waziristan. We used to change his location frequently to protect him from drones,” a senior member of the group that held him said.
Pleading anonymity, he said Bowe Bergdahl had narrowly escaped the drone strikes on a few occasions.“On a few occasions, there was a time difference of two-three hours when a drone hit the house where he had spent some time. There was no way senior people would visit him or spend time with him. The drones used to target locations where we had kept him,” he recalled.
He felt the US wanted to eliminate him in the same area instead of negotiating a deal with the Taliban for his release.APP adds: US President Barack Obama expressed his profound regrets to the families of an American and an Italian hostage who were accidentally killed in a US counterterrorism operation.“We will identify the lessons that can be learnt from this tragedy and any changes that should be made. We will do our utmost to ensure it is not repeated,” Obama said.

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