WASHINGTON (AP) — An American and an Italian held hostage by al Qaeda, as well as two Americans working with the terror group, were inadvertently killed in U.S. counterterrorism operations earlier this year, the White House said Thursday.
The White House said that Warren Weinstein, an American held by al Qaeda since 2011, and Giovanni Lo Porto, an Italian held since 2012, were killed in a January operation in the border region of Afghanistan and Pakistan. The operation targeted an al Qaeda-associated compound and there was no reason to believe either hostage was present, the White House said.
In addition, the U.S. believes that Ahmed Farouq, an American who the White House says was an al Qaeda leader, was killed in the same operation. U.S. officials have also concluded that Adam Gadahn, an American who had served as a spokesman for the terror network, was killed in a separate operation in January.
The White House said Farouq and Gadhan were not specifically targeted in the operations, nor did the U.S. have information indicating their presence at the sites.
President Barack Obama was to appear in the White House briefing room at midmorning to make a statement on the incidents.
The White House said Obama takes "full responsibility for these operations and believes it is important to provide the American people with as much information as possible about our counterterrorism operations, particularly when they take the lives of fellow citizens. "
The White House said that while it believes the operations were lawful, the U.S. is conducting an independent review to understand what happened.
The White House released a statement Thursday morning:
It is with tremendous sorrow that we recently concluded that a U.S. Government counterterrorism operation in January killed two innocent hostages held by al-Qa’ida. Our hearts go out to the families of Dr. Warren Weinstein, an American held by al-Qa’ida since 2011, and Giovanni Lo Porto, an Italian national who had been an al-Qa’ida hostage since 2012. Analysis of all available information has led the Intelligence Community to judge with high confidence that the operation accidentally killed both hostages. The operation targeted an al-Qa’ida-associated compound, where we had no reason to believe either hostage was present, located in the border region of Afghanistan and Pakistan. No words can fully express our regret over this terrible tragedy.