Obama admits government let down hostage families


Andrew BEATTY, AFP

Stressing the plight of the roughly 80 US hostages taken since 9/11 and their families, Obama announced a series of reforms to hostage policy. Obama indicated his government would still refuse to pay ransoms, fearing that would help fund extremist organizations like the Islamic State group and would make US citizens more of a target. But his administration will no longer oppose talks with captors or threaten families with prosecution if they try to raise a ransom on their own. “There have been times where our government, regardless of good intentions, has let them down,” Obama said after hosting around 40 former hostages and relatives at the White House. “I promised them that we can do better.”

Around 30 American hostages remain in captivity, held by drug cartels, criminal gangs and by prominent Middle East jihadist groups. Some have complained that the government’s policy has cost American lives, and that hostages from some European countries are often freed because ransom payments are made. “Families feel that they’ve been threatened for exploring certain options to bring their loved ones home. That’s totally unacceptable,” said Obama. Senior Obama advisor Lisa Monaco said a policy of not offering concessions remained in place, but said “no concessions does not mean no communications.”

Captured and beheaded In his remarks, Obama apologetically relayed a litany of complaints from victims who felt lost in government bureaucracy, facing uncoordinated departments and conflicting information.

“Today my message to anyone who harms Americans is that we do not forget. Our reach is long, justice will be done,” he said. “My message to every American being held unjustly around the world who is fighting from the inside to survive another day, my message to their families, who long to hold them once more, is that the United States of America will never stop working to reunite you with your family.” “We will not give up no matter how long it takes.”