Kidnap & Ransom update August 17, 2018
17-Aug-18

AMERICAS

1. (MEXICO, 14/08/18) Mexican congresswoman kidnapped at gunpoint
Newly elected Mexican congresswoman Norma Azucena Rodríguez Zamora was kidnapped at gunpoint on the Mexico City – Tuxpan highway in central Hidalgo state on 14 August. She was travelling with her driver and assistant when two gunmen opened fire on her vehicle, causing it to flip over and injuring the two staff members. Ms Rodríguez was then dragged out of the car and forced into the assailants’ vehicle, reported to be a black VW Bora. On 1 July, the politician was elected to represent eastern Veracruz state, a hotbed of drug cartel activity, in the lower house of Congress for the centre-left Party of the Democratic Revolution. She was due to take up office on 1 September. Before running for Congress, Ms Rodríguez served as mayor of the town of Tihuatlán in Veracruz. It is currently unclear why the congresswoman was abducted. However, politicians often become targets for criminal gangs if they are perceived to interfere with the gang’s business. Additionally, this year’s electoral cycle in Mexico was the most violent since 1997, according to a July report by consulting firm Etellekt. Between 8 September 2017 and 1 July 2018, Etellekt recorded 774 attacks, including 31 kidnappings, against elected politicians. FULL ARTICLE (1)

2. (COLOMBIA, 15/08/18) ELN said release protocols for nine hostages pending
The National Liberation Army (ELN) sent a WhatsApp audio message to CNN on 15 August, saying release protocols for three policemen, a soldier and two civilians that were kidnapped in the department of Chocó on 3 August are pending. The voices of the victims are also heard in the recording. The hostages reportedly identify themselves and ask the authorities to work with the ELN to secure their release, adding they are in good health. In the recording, the ELN reiterated it is willing to release a total of nine hostages. Three soldiers, who were kidnapped in the department of Arauca days after the Chocó abduction, also remain in ELN’s captivity. The release of the WhatsApp audio recording followed a 10 August statement by the Marxist rebel group saying ELN would release the nine hostages to comply with a demand by new President Ivan Duque in order to continue peace talks with his government. FULL ARTICLE (1)

MIDDLE EAST

3. (YEMEN, 16/08/18) Amnesty International demands release of abducted activist
In a statement released on 16 August, Amnesty International said Yemen’s Houthi rebels must reveal the fate and whereabouts of an activist abducted by the group in an apparent retaliation for his human rights work. Two Houthi gunmen reportedly kidnapped Kamal al-Shawish, a field research assistant with Mwatana Organization for Human Rights, in the port city of Hodeidah on 14 August. He was blindfolded and taken to an unknown location. Throughout the conflict in Yemen, human rights activists and journalists have been harassed, threatened, beaten, arbitrarily detained and forcibly disappeared in both government and Houthi-controlled territory. FULL ARTICLE</p>

4. (LEBANON, 15/08/18) Bangladeshi national kidnapped for ransom in Jounieh
A Bangladeshi national rescued two days after his kidnapping was the victim of a ransom attack, Lebanon’s security forces said in a statement on 15 August. The 41-year-old victim was reportedly abducted in Haret Sakher’s neighborhood in the coastal region of Jounieh. He was taken as he was heading to work on 5 August. Security forces identified the vehicle used by the kidnappers and conducted a raid in Ghazir district on 7 August, arresting an Indian national and seizing the vehicle used in the abduction. A second raid was conducted in a property in the nearby town of Kafr Habab. The victim was found blindfolded and handcuffed in the bathroom. Another two suspects, including an Indian national, were detained. The victim revealed he had been tortured, claiming his kidnappers attempted to hang him after demanding a ransom payment from his girlfriend. There have been no reports on the amount of the demanded ransom. Security forces said the incident highlighted the threat posed by gangs of foreign workers in the country. The president of the General Confederation of Lebanese Workers estimated there are 200,000 Bangladeshi and Indian workers in Lebanon. FULL ARTICLE (1)

AFRICA

5. (NIGERIA, 16/08/18) Nigeria paid ransom for Dapchi girls’ release – UN
On 16 August, the Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team of the UN released a report saying the Nigerian government paid a “large ransom” for the release of 111 schoolgirls from the town of Dapchi. The victims were kidnapped by Boko Haram insurgents on 18 February 2018 and were subsequently released in March. Five of the victims had died after being taken away. In a statement issued on 17 August, Nigeria’s Minister of Information and Culture said ““it is not enough to say that Nigeria paid a ransom, little or huge. There must be conclusive evidence to support such a claim. Without that, the claim remains what it is: a mere conjecture.”
FULL ARTICLE (1)

6. (NIGERIA, 15/08/18) Lecturer’s two wives and son kidnapped in Zamfara State
Zamfara State College of Education lecturer Alhaji Suleman Abdullahi’s two wives and son were kidnapped in Gora Namayi Village located in Maradun Logal Government Area, Zamfara State, on 15 August. Gunmen reportedly took the victims shortly after seven police vehicles left the village. The State Police Commissioner confirmed the incident, adding a police team has been deployed to the village. FULL ARTICLE

ASIA

7. (PHILIPPINES, 12/08/18) Armed forces issued kidnapping threat warning
On 12 August, the Western Command Armed Forces of the Philippines posted the following information on their official Facebook page: “Western Command remains on heightened alert and continues to tighten its security posture in Palawan against all forms of threats, amidst circulating information on probable kidnapping in the Province.” Details surrounding the “probable kidnapping” were not provided, but the message included a reference to Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG): “The ASG, or any threat group for that matter, should not underestimate the Palaweños’ vigilance and unity. They may try to come to Palawan but they will have a hard time to stage their acts because the whole Palawan is against them and will not allow them to do their crimes here.” On 13 August, the UK updated its travel advisory, stating that “local authorities in Palawan have recently warned the public of a heightened risk from kidnapping; if in the area, you should follow the advice of local security and remain vigilant at all times.” On the next day, the US issued a security alert regarding the Western Command’s post, advising American citizens to be vigilant and aware of their surroundings as well as to review personal security plans and monitor local media for updates. Whilst the incidence of kidnappings in the Philippines declined in the first half of 2018 compared to the same period of 2017, Filipino militant groups retain the capability and intent to target affluent domestic and foreign nationals, particularly in the central and southern regions of the Philippines.
FULL ARTICLE (1) (2) (3)