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US strike against al-Qaeda accidentally killed two hostages — one American

Obama announces the deaths of the two hostages at a press conference Thursday morning.
Obama announces the deaths of the two hostages at a press conference Thursday morning.
Mandel Ngan / AFP / Getty
Andrew Prokop is a senior politics correspondent at Vox, covering the White House, elections, and political scandals and investigations. He’s worked at Vox since the site’s launch in 2014, and before that, he worked as a research assistant at the New Yorker’s Washington, DC, bureau.
  1. Since January, US counterterrorism operations against al-Qaeda are believed to have killed one American hostage, one Italian hostage, and two members of al-Qaeda who were American citizens, the US government said Thursday.
  2. The two hostages, Warren Weinstein and Giovanni Lo Porto, were accidentally killed in a strike on an al-Qaeda compound in a border region of Afghanistan and Pakistan in January 2015, Obama said. In that same strike, Ahmed Farouq, a leader of al-Qaeda who is an American citizen, was also killed.
  3. In a separate strike that month, Adam Gadahn, another American member of al-Qaeda, long well-known as a spokesman for the group, was also apparently killed, according to the White House. In a statement, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said that neither Farouq nor Gadahn were specifically targeted, adding, "We did not have information indicating their presence at the sites of these operations."
  4. Both operations were drone strikes, according to the Wall Street Journal's Adam Entous. The strike that killed Weinstein and Lo Porto, Entous writes, is "the first known instance in which the US has accidentally killed a hostage in a drone strike."

Obama defends strikes in statement

In a statement to the press Thursday morning, President Obama defended the strike that killed the two hostages as "fully consistent with the guidelines with which we conduct counterterrorism operations in the region."

"We believed this was an Al Qaeda compound, that no civilians were present, and that capturing these terrorists were not possible," Obama said. "What we did not know, tragically, is that al-Qaeda was hiding the presence of Warren and Giovanni in this same compound."

The American hostage, Warren Weinstein, was a director for an international development consulting firm from Arlington, Virginia. He was kidnapped in Lahore, Pakistan, in 2011. The Italian hostage, Giovanni Lo Porto, was an aid worker kidnapped in 2012.