Al-Qaida has released a set of written demands for the release of its most recent American hostage, 70-year-old Warren Weinstein. The Jewish-American aid worker was seized nearly four months ago from the Pakistani city of Lahore, but al-Qaida only recently claimed the kidnapping during a videotaped speech by senior leader Ayman al-Zawahiri.
Al-Qaida's justification for the random kidnapping of an aid worker was revenge. "Just as the Americans detain whomever they suspect may be connected to al-Qaeda or the Taliban even in the slightest of ways, we have detained this man who has been involved with US aid to Pakistan since the 1970s," BBC reported Zawahiri as having said on his latest video release.
The senior terrorist also spoke directly to Weinstein's family, telling them not to believe President Obama if he claimed he was working to free the hostage. "He [President Obama] might say to you, 'I sought to release your relative, but al-Qaeda was stubborn.' Do not believe him," Zawahiri was quoted as saying.
While al-Qaida may claim that it is interested in negotiation, its conditions would involve massive changes to American foreign policy. Topping the list of demands was a call for "lifting the sanctions entirely on the movement of individuals and products between Egypt and Gaza."
Al-Qaida has recently paid more attention to the Palestinian conflict, particularly since the issue has become a popular rallying cry for Arab Spring protesters.
The group also insists on an end to Western air raids on Pakistan-Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia, and Gaza. Practically, meeting this demand would mean halting anti-piracy operations off the coast of Somalia, stopping Israeli counterstrikes on Gaza rocket fire, and an American withdrawal from Afghanistan.
The remaining demands center on the release of all al-Qaida prisoners being held in American jails and international facilities. Demand #3 calls for "releasing all those arrested on the charge of belonging to al-Qaida or the Taliban even if they were handed to another country, like 'Abu Musaab al-Suri,' and even if they were non-Muslims." It also demands that America and the West "drop all the charges directed to them, stopping any legal pursuit of them, and transferring them to the place they choose, dignified and endeared."
Further demands include the closing of Guantanamo and American rendition prisons, the release of prisoners serving time for the first World Trade Center bombing, and the freeing of Aafia Siddiqui and other female prisoners convicted of terrorism charges. They also stipulate an end to the purported harassment and charging of members of Osama bin Laden's family, without regard for their participation or support for al-Qaida.
Foreigners are not common targets of Pakistan's kidnapping culture, although there have been a small number of high-profile abductions of Westerners. A Swiss couple remains missing after they were seized in July. The case of Wall Street Journalist Daniel Pearl also made headlines for its particular brutality. Pearl was taken and murdered in 2002, after being forced to confess that he was a Jew.