"I want to express our grief and condolences for the families of two hostages," Obama said Thursday morning

By Tara Fowler
April 23, 2015 10:40 AM
Susan Walsh/AP

President Barack Obama took full responsibility for the deaths of two hostages accidentally killed in a U.S. airstrike on al-Qaeda.

Speaking from the White House on Thursday morning, he confirmed that Warren Weinstein, an American held by the terrorist organization since 2011, and Giovanni Lo Porto, an Italian national who was captured in 2012, had died during the counterterrorism operation in January.

“I want to express our grief and condolences for the families of two hostages,” Obama said in a heartfelt speech. Their “determination to protect innocent life makes the loss of these two men especially painful for all of us.”

He added: “As a husband and as a father, I cannot begin to imagine the anguish … I know there is nothing that I can ever say or do to ease their heartache.”

Warren Weinstein (left) and Giovanni Lo Porto (right)

Weinstein was a former peace corps official working on contract for the United States Agency for International Development when he was kidnapped just four days before he was due to return home.

“I really don’t know why they are holding him,” his wife Elaine said in an interview last year.

Meanwhile, Lo Porto was a humanitarian aid worker who had traveled to Pakistan to help rebuild an area hit by flooding before he too was kidnapped.

In the wake of their tragic deaths, Obama announced that he has ordered a review of drone strikes, though the White House emphasized in a statement that this particular strike was “lawful and conducted consistent with our counterterrorism policies.”

The operation details will be declassified for the families’ and the public’s peace of mind. “As president and commander in chief, I take full responsibility for all our counterterrorism efforts,” Obama added.

He went on to say that there was no information to suggest that any civilians or hostages were present at the compound where the strike took place. “What we did not know, tragically, was that al-Qaeda was hiding Weinstein and Lo Porto in the compound,” he said. “Mistakes, sometimes deadly mistakes, can occur … We will do our utmost to ensure it’s not repeated.”

He concluded: “May God bless these two brave men and may he watch over and comfort their families.”

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