The family of Warren Weinstein, an American who was held hostage by al Qaeda for four years before he was killed in a U.S. drone strike, received assistance from the FBI when they paid a ransom to individuals claiming to be his captors in 2012, sources told CNN.
“Over the three and a half year period of Warren’s captivity, the family made every effort to engage with those holding him or those with the power to find and rescue him,” a spokesman for the family said in a statement on Wednesday.
The news of the ransom was first reported by the Wall Street Journal.
“This is an ordinary American family and they are not familiar with how one manages a kidnapping,” the statement continued. “As such, they took the advice of those in government who deal with such issues on a regular basis and were disappointed that their efforts were not ultimately successful.”
A U.S. official told CNN the decision to pay ransom is a personal one by a hostage’s family, but once that decision is made the FBI isn’t going to abandon the family and will take appropriate steps to make sure they make a fully informed decision as they go through the process.
“The guiding principle is the safety and the welfare of the hostage and the well-being of the family,” the official said.
The FBI did not directly authorize or approve of the ransom payment – a violation of U.S. hostage policy – the official said.
But according to the Wall Street Journal report, the agency “vetted a Pakistani middleman used by the family to transport the money and provided other intelligence to enable an exchange.”
The Weinstein family fears the money may have gone to the wrong people, a source with detailed knowledge of the negotiations told CNN.
Weinstein was abducted by gunmen posing as neighbors in 2011 from his home in Lahore, Pakistan.
Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri announced the group was holding him a few months later, making a series of demands to the Obama administration in an audio recording.
U.S. officials called for his release but repeatedly said Washington wouldn’t bargain with al Qaeda.
CNN’s Laura Koran contributed to this report.