(JTA) — Al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri said in a video that he would swap an American hostage for prisoners in the U.S. with links to the organization.
In exchange for Warren Weinstein, Zawahiri specifically called for the release of Sheikh Omar Abdul Rahman, the blind cleric convicted of attempting to blow up the World Trade Center in the early 1990s; the family of Osama bin Laden, the assassinated leader of al-Qaida; and Aafia Siddiqui, who was convicted in 2010 in New York for attempting to murder U.S. government officials.
Weinstein, 70, was serving as the director in Pakistan for J.E. Austin Associates, a U.S. firm that advises a range of Pakistani businesses, when he was kidnapped from his bed last August.
"He will not return to his family, by the will of Allah, until our demands are met, which include the release of Aafia Siddiqui, Sheikh Omar Abdul Rahman, the family of Sheikh Osama bin Laden, and every single person arrested on allegations of links with Al-Qaeda and Taliban," Zawahiri said in the video, which was released online on Friday.
Zawahiri took over the leadership of al-Qaida following the killing of Bin Laden last May by U.S. special forces.
"Just as the Americans detain all whom they suspect of links to Al-Qaeda and the Taliban, even remotely, we detained this man who has been neck-deep in American aid to Pakistan since the 1970s," Zawahiri said.
Weinstein had worked in Pakistan for several years and speaks the national language, Urdu. The video noted that Weinstein was Jewish.
In the video, Zawahiri also calls on Pakistani citizens to revolt against the government and the military.