Former SUNY professor accidentally killed in U.S. drone strike

OSWEGO, N.Y. (NEWS10) – Two al-Qaeda hostages were killed during a U.S. counterterrorism operation, including a former SUNY Oswego professor.

President Barack Obama has apologized for the operation that killed two al-Qaeda hostages: Italian Giovanni Lo Porto and former SUNY professor Warren Weinstein.

United University Professions President Fred Kowal, Ph.D., was a friend of Weinstein and called him a hero for the work he was doing overseas.

“Every time there had been a release, I paid close attention to hear the name of the individual in the hopes that it was Warren,” he said.

Weinstein was kidnapped by al-Qaeda in 2011 and was held hostage in Pakistan. He was a former SUNY Oswego professor and member of the United University Professions at NYSUT.

Weinstein left Oswego in 1979 to work with U.S.AID on behalf of people in developing countries. One year ago, Weinstein’s family reached out to Kowal to help expedite negotiations on his release.

Kowal wrote letters to President Obama, the Secretary of State and members of Congress.

“Because in essence, he was the best kind of public servant,” Kowal said. “He saw the entire world as the public. He was working on economic development projects and human rights issues there; in one of the most dangerous places in the world.”

President Obama announced on Thursday that Weinstein and an Lo Porto were killed in January by U.S. drone strikes near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

“We do believe that the operation did take out dangerous members of al-Qaeda,” he said. “What we did not know, tragically, is that al-Qaeda was hiding the presence of Warren and Giovanni in this same compound.”

The White House is now investigating those strikes.

Weinstein’s wife Elaine released a statement saying she hoped U.S. and Pakistani officials “would have done everything possible to win his release,” but that those who took him captive bear the “ultimate responsibility.”

Congress echoed that sentiment.

SUNY Oswego President Deborah Stanley issued a statement: “Dr. Weinstein devoted his life to making the world a better place. He left us to serve others in some of the world’s most impoverished and troubled regions. His life was an inspiration that will not die. Our hearts go out to his family, friends and colleagues.”

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