In exchange for Weinstein's release, Zawahiri requests the lifting of the Israeli "siege" of the Gaza strip, the complete end of "bombings by America and its allies in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia and Gaza," the release of all al Qaeda and Taliban prisoners and the closing down of the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo bay, Cuba, in addition to the release of members of Osama bin Laden's family.
"Obama has the power, capacity and authority to free [Weinstein]," says Zawahiri. "He could also leave him in captivity for years and, if he does something stupid, kill him."
In August, Pakistani police arrested three men in connection with the kidnapping. Weinstein, a private U.S. citizen who has lived in Pakistan for seven years, was sleeping in his bed when assailants burst into his home to snatch him. The former USAID worker is currently employed by the private U.S.-based development firm J.E. Austin Associates.
All three suspects are from the same province in which Weinstein lived, an area far from the turbulent tribal regions near the Afghan border more usually associated with violent attacks. The men were arrested after investigators managed to track their cell phone numbers, the Lahore police chief said without elaborating.
Some in Pakistan have speculated privately that Weinstein was not a development worker, but instead worked in intelligence for the U.S. Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah publicly announced his suspicions, telling local media that Weinstein was involved in "quite suspect" intelligence-gathering for the U.S. government and comparing him to Raymond Davis, the American CIA contractor who was jailed in Pakistan earlier this year for shooting two men on the streets of Lahore.
U.S. diplomats said Weinstein is not connected to any U.S. intelligence groups.
Weinstein is the first private citizen to be kidnapped in Pakistan since al Qaeda operatives abducted and murdered Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl in 2002.
On the new tape, Zawahiri also acknowledges for the first time the death of his number two, al Qaeda deputy leader Atiyah Abd al-Rahman, in a CIA drone strike in Pakistan's tribal area in August. One senior U.S. official described his death at the time as "a tremendous loss for al Qaeda, because Zawahiri was relying heavily on him to help guide and run the organization, especially since bin Laden's death." According to U.S. officials, Atiyah was the "operational leader" of the terror group.