the WHITE HOUSEPresident Barack Obama

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The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release

Statement by the Press Secretary

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.

We also believe two other Americans were recently killed in U.S. Government counterterrorism operations in the same region.  We have concluded that Ahmed Farouq, an American who was an al-Qa’ida leader, was killed in the same operation that resulted in the deaths of Dr. Weinstein and Mr. Lo Porto.  We have also concluded that Adam Gadahn, an American who became a prominent member of al-Qa’ida, was killed in January, likely in a separate U.S. Government counterterrorism operation.  While both Farouq and Gadahn were al-Qa’ida members, neither was specifically targeted, and we did not have information indicating their presence at the sites of these operations. 

The President directed that the information being shared today, which was properly classified until now, be declassified and shared with the American people.  He 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 uniquely tragic nature of the operation that resulted in the deaths of two innocent hostages is something we will do our utmost to ensure is not repeated.  To this end, although the operation was lawful and conducted consistent with our counterterrorism policies, we are conducting a thorough independent review to understand fully what happened and how we can prevent this type of tragic incident in the future. 

Many within our government spent years attempting to locate and free Dr. Weinstein and Mr. Lo Porto.  The pain of their deaths will remain with us as we rededicate ourselves to adhering to the most exacting standards in doing all we can to protect the American people.