President Barack Obama said Thursday he takes full responsibility for a counterterrorism operation against al-Qaeda in Pakistan that unintentionally killed two hostages: an American and an Italian.
A U.S. drone strike near the Pakistan-Afghan border in January killed long-time hostages Warren Weinstein, an American aid worker, and Giovanni Lo Porto, an Italian aid worker. President Obama said the strike is now in full review.
"As president and commander-in-chief, I take full responsibility for all our counterterrorism operation – including the one that inadvertently took the lives of Warren and Giovanni," said Obama. "I profoundly regret what happened. On behalf of the United States government offer our deepest apologies to the families."
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest stated in a press briefing on Thursday that the president did not specifically approve of the operation that killed the hostages. He also stated that their families will be financially compensated for their loss by the U.S. government.
Earnest said American officials at the time of the strike, which took place on a compound in Pakistan near Afghanistan, had "no reason to believe either hostage was present."
Dr. Warren Weinstein was held by al-Qaeda since 2011, while Italian Giovanni Lo Porto had been kept captive by al-Qaeda since 2012.
"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," said Earnest.
Weinstein's family issued a statement on a website devoted to his return and rescue, expressing their devastation over news of his accidental killing.
"We were so hopeful that those in the U.S. and Pakistani governments with the power to take action and secure his release would have done everything possible to do so and there are no words to do justice to the disappointment and heartbreak we are going through," said Weinstein's wife, Elaine, in a statement.
And although the White House and the Obama administration has been extremely apologetic, Elaine felt the effort given to find Weinstein was inadequate.
"Unfortunately, the assistance we received from other elements of the U.S. Government was inconsistent and disappointing over the course of three and a half years," she continued. "We hope that my husband's death and others who have face similar tragedies in recent months will finally prompt the U.S. Government to take its responsibilities seriously and establish a coordinated and consistent approach to supporting hostages and their families."
The official statement by the White House press secretary also revealed that the information on the hostages deaths was properly classified and was made public this week through the President's directive.
The report states that two other Americans were killed in U.S. Government counterterrorism operations in the same region. The killings include Ahmed Farouq, an American al-Qaeda leader who died in the same operation that took the lives of Weinstein and Lo Porto. The other American, al-Qaeda member Adam Gadahn, was killed in January in a separate operation.
"While both Farouq and Gadahn were al-Qaeda members, neither was specifically targeted, and we did not have information indicating their presence at the sites of these operations," he said.