Wife of kidnapped American worker in Pakistan pleads for his release

Wife of kidnapped American worker in Pakistan pleads for his release

August 13, 2012

(JTA)—The wife of Warren Weinstein, who was kidnapped in Pakistan by Al-Qaida gunmen, marked the first anniversary of his abduction with a plea for his return.

Elaine Weinstein released a statement Monday saying she fears that his health will “deteriorate” since he suffers from several medical conditions, and that his grandchildren ask for him every day, The Associated Press reported.

“It is impossible to describe the pain and sadness my daughters and I feel,” Elaine Weinstein reportedly said. “We are simply heartsick. I always imagined growing old with Warren and enjoying our family together.”

Weinstein, of Rockville, Md., was kidnapped in August 2011 outside Pakistan while he was working for J.E. Austin Associates, a private company that advises Pakistani businesses. Weinstein, 71, a former Peace Corps and USAID official, had worked in Pakistan for eight years and spoke the local language, Urdu.

In May, al-Qaida released a videotape of Weinstein in which he begs President Obama to save his life. In the video, Weinstein tells Obama that he wants to “live and hopefully rejoin my family and also enjoy my children, my two daughters, like you enjoy your two daughters.” Sitting before a platter of food, he also says he is in good health. It is not known when the video was recorded.

In a video released in March, al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri said that he would swap Weinstein for prisoners in the U.S. with links to the organization. The video noted that Weinstein was Jewish.

‘Lone wolf’ gunmen are security puzzle for West

The possibility that a killing rampage by a French gunman was a solo campaign will inject fresh urgency into Western efforts to detect “self-starter” or “lone wolf” terrorists before they strike.

The tactic Al Qaeda calls “individual jihad”—low-tech attacks by untrained sympathizers acting largely or completely on their own—may seem a sign of weakness in an organization that mounted the team-based raids of Sept 11, 2001.

But the approach makes up in stealth for what it can lack in lethality, because the lack of outside support reduces the risks of detection, and such attacks can still have a huge impact.

So for Western counter-terrorism agencies the loner, often radicalized unseen and online, is an increasing cause of concern, and security specialists are worried the low-level gun rampage in France may now inspire copy-cat attacks.

“‘Lone wolves’ who plot to carry out small-scale attacks on soft targets, like those in which seven people have been killed in France, could be the future of terrorism,” said Sajjan Gohel of the Asia-Pacific Foundation counter-terrorism research group.

“This has sent out the message that followers of al Qaeda can carry out successful attacks, can precipitate terror, on their own. This is exactly what happened in France: people were scared to go out, schools were under guard, there was a real sense of insecurity – that is true terrorism.”

Mohamed Merah, a Frenchman of Algerian origin, died from gunshot wounds on Thursday at the end of a 30-hour standoff with police at his apartment in southern France. He confessed to killing three soldiers, three Jewish children and a rabbi.


He told negotiators he was trained by al Qaeda in Pakistan and killed three soldiers last week and four people at a Jewish school on Monday to avenge the deaths of Palestinian children and because of French army involvement in Afghanistan.

His death deprives police of the opportunity to obtain the information they needed most of all – a first-hand account of whether he was acting alone or in concert with others.

Britain, host to the 2012 Olympics and, like France, often cited by al Qaeda as a priority target, will be paying close attention to any lessons that are learned from the Merah case.

London police commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe said in February the prospect of a lone wolf attack had been on their minds since the killing of 77 people last July by anti-Islam militant Norwegian Anders Behring Breivik.

“After we saw the attack in Norway by a single individual – that has been part of our planning over the last year,” he said.

“It has been about identifying an individual in this country or abroad and if there is a possibility of someone like that attacking the Olympic event. We think that is very unlikely but obviously it has formed part of our planning this year as we lead up to the Olympics.”

President Barack Obama said on Aug. 16 a “lone wolf terrorist” like Breivik now presents a bigger risk to the United States than a large-scale operation.


“When you’ve got one person who is deranged or driven by a hateful ideology, they can do a lot of damage, and it’s a lot harder to trace those lone wolf operators,” he told CNN.

Equally troubling, from a counter-terrorism perspective, is that the attributes of loner militants vary hugely, representing a phenomenon that is poorly understood by security specialists with expertise in hunting transnational networks of cells.

The more untrained or unintelligent the militant is, the more likely he or she is to be detected. Incautious Internet activity or sloppy pre-attack surveillance of a target are two ways Western security can be alerted.

Risk of detection rises also in the event that al Qaeda sympathizers try to build a bomb: police in many countries monitor purchases of potential components.

But the challenge remains considerable.

Merah had been under intelligence surveillance and the MEMRI Middle East think tank said he appeared to belong to a French al Qaeda branch called Fursan Al-Izza, ideologically aligned with a movement to Islamise Western states by implementing sharia law.

But he had done nothing especially to arouse suspicion that he was planning an act of violence.

Anna Boyd, a terrorism expert at Exclusive Analysis, said that the location of self-starter attacks was “very often somewhere you would not expect, just because it’s where the person happens to live. It’s ‘just up the road’ from them.”

Gohel said if a cell was only one or two people “it’s a lot harder to monitor their activities, to trace their networks, and so on. In previous cases, the ability of the authorities to disrupt the planning stage has been low, because you don’t get the leakage of information that you get with a larger cell”.


Will Hartley, a terrorism expert at IHS Jane’s, said it was possible for an individual to generate a huge amount of media attention merely with a gun attack.

Counter-terrorism experts will be examining every aspect of Merah’s life and recent activities to try to discern if his alleged killings were part of a joint effort.

But some experts said that even if al Qaeda had nothing to do with the attacks, it is likely to voice approval of them, if not claim credit for them outright.

“We’ve definitely seen them encourage it more since the Fort Hood shooting,” said Boyd, referring to the killing of 13 people at a U.S. army base by an army major who prosecutors have said was inspired by an al Qaeda preacher online.

“And though they never commented on the Breivik shooting they were probably watching that with great interest, and seeing how effective that managed to be.”

Even before Breivik, al Qaeda was examining the loner tactic. Under pressure from a relentless U.S. missile campaign in its Afghan-Pakistan border hideouts, the group appeared to have concluded that lone wolf attacks were better than nothing.

The group, which had long favored complex, team-based plots like the Sept. 11 attacks, gave its most explicit endorsement of the tactic after Osama bin Laden’s May 2011 killing.

On June 2, 2011, Islamist online forums carried an appeal by al Qaeda core leaders for individuals in the West to carry on bin Laden’s work with “do-it-yourself” strikes.

“Muslims in the West have to remember that they are perfectly placed to play an important and decisive part in the jihad against the Zionists and Crusaders,” al Qaeda official Adam Gadahn says in the video, entitled “You Are Responsible Only For Yourself”.

“Take America as an example. America is absolutely awash with easily obtainable firearms … What are you waiting for?”

Reporting by William Maclean; Editing by Robert Woodward


Now It’s Jewish Terrorists

The settler movement is in serious denial over last week’s killings of three Palestinians, including 3-month-old Dia Tmeizi. While all settlers publicly condemn the killings, even the most "mainstream" don’t see any connection between the nighttime ambush near Hebron and the incessant cries for "revenge" by settlers at funerals, demonstrations and elsewhere.

"I also shouted ‘revenge’ at demonstrations," says Yehoshua Mor-Yosef, spokesman of the YESHA Council, the lead political action committee of the settler movement. "There’s nothing forbidden about revenge, it’s perfectly legitimate as long as it’s carried out by the state, not by individuals taking the law into their own hands."

The gunman or gunmen, who opened fire on the car driven by the Tmeizi family, fled in the direction of "Israel proper," not towards a Jewish settlement or Palestinian Authority territory inside. It’s possible the gunmen were not settlers. But the more radical settlers insist that Arabs might well have been the killers.

This was the argument Adir Zik, a tremendously popular commentator on the settler radio station Arutz 7, made on his program the morning after the killings. "It’s being taken for granted that this was done by Jews, but it’s very doubtful," Zik said in an interview, recalling a 1995 murder of Halhoul Arabs at first thought to have been committed by settler extremists, when it turned out to have been done by Palestinians.

Reminded that there have been instances of settlers killing innocent Palestinians, the most grievous case being the massacre of 29 Palestinians by Baruch Goldstein in Hebron, Zik replied, "I have many doubts whether he killed the people there. He might have been pulled into [Hebron’s Tomb of the Patriarchs, where the Arab victims were shot during prayer]. It might have really been a feud between Arab clans."

That Goldstein was seen going into the tomb with his Army rifle; his dead body was found in the tomb afterward; his rifle and his spent bullets were recovered from the tomb; and scores of Palestinian survivors testified that it was Goldstein who opened fire, evidently hasn’t made an impression on Zik. Soon after the killings, Women in Green sent out an e-mail headlined, "Don’t Blame the Jews!" "The fact that Arab survivors testified that the attackers looked Jewish doesn’t mean anything," said Women in Green, noting that Efrat settler Sarah Blaustein was shot to death by Palestinians wearing a kippah. There is no known case of Arabs disguising themselves as religious Jews and killing Arabs for the purpose of discrediting settlers, but this doesn’t deter the Women in Green. With Arab pressure mounting to bring international observers to the territories, there is a "clear Arab interest in portraying themselves as victims," went the statement.

A few days before the assault on the Tmeizi family — all told, three of them were killed and four wounded, including Dia’s mother — Shin Bet head Avi Dichter told a Knesset committee that at least one Jewish terror cell was operating in the West Bank. In June, a Palestinian was killed in a drive-by shooting by unknown gunmen calling themselves the Shalhevet-Zar Brigade, named for two Jewish settler victims of the intifada, the infant girl Shalhevet Pass and security officer Gilad Zar. At the time of Dichter’s warning, explosives were found in the car of the wife of Noam Federman, a Kach leader and Hebron settler arrested and convicted numerous times for hate crimes.

Yet while even moderate settlers say the guilt for the Tmeizi killings are confined to the gunmen who carried them out, the Israeli human rights organization B’tselem says that all told during the current intifada, eight Palestinians have been killed by Israeli civilians in what could be called murders. In some cases the killers were never found, in other cases the police arrested settlers but freed them for lack of evidence — over the testimony of Palestinian who said they witnessed the killings. Beyond these killings, B’tselem points out, settler vigilantism is a continuous phenomenon, and has been especially grievous during this intifada.

"In recent months, settlers have shot at Palestinians, stoned their cars, damaged property, uprooted trees, burned a mosque, harmed Palestinian medical teams, attacked journalists, prevented farmers from going to their fields and blocked Palestinian cars from traveling on roads. Although some of the shooting was in self-defense, the vast majority of violence was premeditated," B’tselem stated.

Asked to respond to this statement, Mor-Yosef interrupted the reading of it and said, "I believe a B’tselem as much as I believe a Hamas report. I don’t believe a word they say."

Palestinians have killed scores of West Bank and Gaza settlers in this intifada, and hundreds have been wounded. The roads the Palestinians drive to and from home have become killing zones. But settlers have not only been victims during the current fighting, they have also been victimizers. Their claims of innocence in the killing of the Tmeizis are hollow when their cry of "Revenge!" has become so common.

Acts of Vengeance

Twenty thousand mourners, seething with anger, followed the bodies of Binyamin and Talia Kahane through downtown Jerusalem to the Givat Shaul cemetery last Sunday night. Most of them were Orthodox yeshiva students, admirers of Meir Kahane, the assassinated founder of the Jewish Defense League and of the outlawed Kach party. The rabbi’s son and daughter-in-law, aged 34 and 31 respectively, had been shot by Palestinian gunmen as they drove home from a Jerusalem Shabbat to the West Bank settlement of Kfar Tapuach. Five of their six children were injured.

The funeral procession rapidly degenerated into a riot. In King George Street, young men burst into a kebab bar and chased terrified Arab workers up to the second story, while the crowd outside chanted: “Lynch! Lynch!” In the Rehavia suburb, the march paused outside Prime Minister Ehud Barak’s heavily guarded official residence. “Kill the traitor!” they yelled. “Death to traitors! Hang him! Ehud the murderer!” Ten policemen were injured in the confrontations.

Baruch Kahane, the murdered man’s brother, told the mourners: “There is no exemption from God’s obligation to take revenge.” Noam Federman, a leading Kach activist in Hebron, exhorted them: “Wake up, Jews. Take your fate into your own hands.”

No one this week is dismissing their words as windy rhetoric. The Kach fanatics, reduced to a bunch of spray-painting sloganeers since an Egyptian shot Meir Kahane in New York 10 years ago, no longer feel isolated. The daily armed attacks on Israeli soldiers and civilians are dragging the mainstream closer to the fringe. Settler rabbis, subdued since one of their disciples, Yigal Amir, assassinated Yitzhak Rabin, are preaching against the “treason” of ceding the Temple Mount to Palestinian rule. Opposition politicians, reluctant to call Israel’s most-decorated war hero a traitor, say Barak has “merely” gone insane.

The morning after Binyamin Kahane’s funeral, political commentator Hemi Shalev wrote in Ma’ariv: “The entire region is sitting on a powder keg, the Temple Mount is the primed fuse, and all that is missing is a match… A divided people is united in a rare consensus of despair at the present situation, and fear of what is to come.”

The Shin Bet, Israel’s FBI, is stepping up surveillance of the radical right and reinforcing the guard on sensitive sites like the Temple Mount in Jerusalem and the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron. “All scenarios are possible,” said a senior security man.

Three doomsday scenarios are being taken seriously. All three have been tried, successfully or otherwise, over the past 20 years. They are:

An attack on a Muslim shrine, like Al Aqsa mosque, which the “Jewish underground” once plotted to blow up so that the Jewish Temple could be rebuilt.

A massacre of Palestinians, along the lines of the slaughter of 29 Muslims at prayer by Baruch Goldstein, an American-born settler physician, in Hebron.

The assassination of Barak or other ministers identified with the peace process.

Prof. Ehud Sprinzak, an expert on Israel’s radical right, said this week: “The motivation of the Kahane people to strike is very powerful. They may not do it today or tomorrow, but I think they’re cooking something. They probably also feel they have a public behind them, a lot of sympathy and support.”

Sprinzak, dean of the Lauder School of Government at the Herzliya Interdisciplinary Center, Israel’s first private university, argued that Kach had cultivated an ideology of Jewish revenge even before the murder of Binyamin and Talia Kahane. “For them” he said, “it’s not a necessary evil, not a matter of self-defense; it’s a virtue. They believe that striking a gentile constitutes a holy act.”

At the same time, he went on, Kach had suffered a sense of guilt for failing to avenge the blood of its charismatic rabbi. This would only intensify with the death of his son and ideological heir. “They did not live up to Kahane’s legacy,” Sprinzak said. “This is another powerful drive to take revenge now.”

The professor was less sure about the broader settler right, who have surprised many observers by their relative restraint during the three-month Intifada. They were, he explained, very pleased that their job was being done for them by the army and felt they were part of a consensus.

Now, all would hinge on whether there was a last-minute deal between Barak and Arafat. “If there is, they’ll go bananas. If not, they’ll sit back and say, ‘We told you so. You can’t trust Arafat.'” Unless, that is, Palestinian terrorism pushes their patience to the breaking point.