By John Clarke
ROCKVILLE, Md. (Reuters) - On the leafy street where U.S. economic development expert Warren Weinstein lived before he was kidnapped by Islamic militants in Pakistan, the yellow ribbons signifying hope that he would come home still hung on Thursday.
But on the day they learned that Weinstein, a 73-year-old grandfather from Rockville, Maryland, had been accidentally killed in a January drone strike that also resulted in the death of an American al Qaeda leader, many of his neighbors were grieving in private.
Meredith McCain, 65, said she has known the Weinsteins since moving across the street in 1996. She said she admired Weinstein's widow, Elaine, for her positive attitude during the 3 1/2 years her husband was captive.
"We took a lot of inspiration from her because she was able to maintain her life and keep her house ready for his return," McCain said. "She kept hope alive."
Elaine Weinstein did not speak publicly on Thursday. She issued a statement thanking a handful of government officials including her congressman, U.S. Representative John Delaney, for "relentless" efforts to free her husband, a father of two daughters and grandfather of two.
"Unfortunately, the assistance we received from other elements of the U.S. government was inconsistent and disappointing," Weinstein said. "We hope that my husband's death and the others who have faced similar tragedies in recent months will finally prompt the U.S. government to take its responsibilities seriously and establish a coordinated and consistent approach to supporting hostages and their families."
Weinstein was abducted in Lahore, Pakistan, on Aug. 13, 2011, while working for a consulting firm hired by the U.S. Agency for International Development, according to his family. Al Qaeda had sought to trade him for some of its members being held in the United States.
U.S. President Barack Obama apologized on Thursday for the deaths of Weinstein and Italian aid worker Giovanni Lo Porto in a drone strike that also killed high-ranking American al Qaeda leader Ahmed Farouq.
The Weinstein family is not alone in criticizing how the U.S. government handles hostage situations involving its citizens overseas.
The parents of American journalist James Foley, who was killed by Islamic State militants in Syria last year, have also faulted the Obama administration's handling of their son's case. They said they had been warned they could face criminal charges if they paid a ransom to secure his release.
The death of Foley and at least two other Americans prompted Obama to order a review of U.S. policies regarding hostages held by militants.
Delaney, a Democratic congressman, said he planned to introduce legislation soon to improve the U.S. government's response to hostage taking.
"His country failed him in his greatest time of need," Delaney said.
Neighbors left flowers in memorial on Thursday by a tree in front of the white two-story house where Elaine Weinstein had waited for her husband to return.
"I'm not sure that many people would keep someone alive in the present tense the way she did," McCain said.
(Writing by Scott Malone; Editing by Doina Chiacu)