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Kidnap & Ransom update – December 28, 2018


1. (COLOMBIA, 27/12/18) Man freed by ELN after a year in captivity

The National Liberation Army (ELN), an armed guerrilla organisation operating in Colombia, freed an engineer whom had been kidnapped on 13 January 2018. The victim, 42-year-old Rafael Andrés Riaño, engineer of a subcontractor of the public oil company Ecopétrol, was released last week in the Arauca Department, a border area with Venezuela. The release came as the ELN announced on 17 December a unilateral cease-fire, to be observed between 23 December 2018 and 3 January 2019. At present however, peace talks with the government remain suspended. FULL ARTICLE (1)

2. (MEXICO, 25/12/18) Family kidnapped in Cancun during Christmas dinner

Over Christmas dinner on 25 December, a family of nine was kidnapped from a residence in Cancun by an armed criminal gang. The assailants had broken into the family house and abducted the nine victims, most of whom were minors, and taken them to an undisclosed location. One of the victims was released and instructed to return with 20,000 pesos (USD 1,017) and two mobile phones. He instead sought the assistance of security forces who mounted a rapid rescue operation. They succeeded in freeing the remaining victims and arrested five suspects. FULL ARTICLE (1)

3. (MEXICO, 25/12/18) Teacher kidnapped from home on Christmas Day

On 25 December, armed criminals broke into a family home in Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz, and abducted a female teacher at gunpoint. The victim’s husband attempted to repel the assailants, though they opened fire to intimidate him and frighten other family members. During the attack, the victim’s children were forced to lie on the ground in the back yard. The kidnappers took the teacher into a car outside the property and drove her away to an undisclosed location. At present, it has not been disclosed if any ransom demands have been issued. A security operation has been launched by the local authorities. FULL ARTICLE (1)


4. (GREECE, 27/12/18) Businessman kidnapped in Athens

On 27 December, a 50-year-old businessman was reportedly kidnapped in the Piraeus area of Athens. The victim had been walking towards his car when four assailants abducted him and forced him into another waiting vehicle. According to local sources, the kidnappers were wearing uniforms of the police’s elite counter-terrorism unit (EKAM). At present, no ransom demands have been issued, though it is assessed as likely that the incident was financially motivated, and that the suspects will contact the victim’s family in due course. FULL ARTICLE


5. (IRAQ, 23/12/18) Kidnap victim rescued in Basra

On 23 December, a kidnap victim was released during a security operation in Qurna, Basra province. The victim was a Basra Oil Company bus driver, and had been kidnapped the previous day by unknown assailants. A ransom demand was then issued to the victim’s father via a phone call, demanding a USD $150,000 ransom to secure the hostage’s release. It is likely this kidnapping was conducted by local criminal elements, with the target identified due to a perception of family wealth. This is an established method of income generation employed by organised criminal networks in Basra, with sporadic cases involving local nationals reported across the province. At present, the kidnappers remain at large. OFFICIAL REPORTING

6. (IRAQ, 24/12/18) Mass kidnapping reported in Northern Iraq

On 24 December, in the province of Kirkuk, a security source reported that Islamic State (IS) militants had kidnapped 13 civilians in Rashad, in addition to stealing agricultural equipment. This came hours after the insurgent group reportedly abducted three Kurdish civilians from a village in Kirkuk’s Daquq district. According to the source, security forces had not yet been able to respond to the attacks, enabling IS fighters to launch multiple attacks in the region. FULL ARTICLE


7. (CAMEROON, 24/12/18) Separatists kill one and kidnap 15 in North West Region

Over 23-24 December, English-speaking separatists attacked a French-speaking town in Cameroon’s restive North West Region. During the attack, they killed one civilian and abducted a further 15. They also set fire to 86 residences. It was reported by witnesses that the assailants called for the release of their leader, who is currently imprisoned and may face the death penalty. FULL ARTICLE

8. (KENYA, 26/12/18) Italian kidnap victim believed to be alive

Kenyan police announced that they have received crucial information indicating that Italian volunteer Silvia Romano, kidnapped on 21 November by gunmen in Malindi, Kilifi County, “is still alive” and “detained in the country.” Over 100 people have so far been arrested in connection with Romano’s kidnapping, which occurred at the village of Chakama, 60km west of the town of Malindi. During the attack on the village, the assailants also killed five villagers. FULL ARTICLE

9. (MALI, 26/12/18) Islamic insurgents kidnap English teacher

On 22 December, members of the Macina Liberation Front, a jihadist insurgency group, attacked a boat travelling between the localities of Ténenkou and Mopti. According to witnesses, the boat had twenty passengers on board, when armed militants stormed the vessel and cut its engines. It appears as if the attack was targeted, as the only victim was an English teacher, who was then boarded onto another boat and taken to an unknown location. On 26 December, the abduction was claimed by Amadou Koufa, the radical leader of the Macina Liberation Front. In his statement, Koufa indicated that the victim had been kidnapped due his teaching an ‘un-Islamic’ language. FULL ARTICLE

10. (NIGERIA, 25/12/18) Farm manager freed after ransom paid

On 25 December, police announced that the killers of the former Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Air Chief Marshal Alex Badeh, released his farm manager the previous week. This came after a ransom of 3 million Naira (USD 8,300) was reportedly paid after initial demands of 20 million Naira (USD 55,300) were negotiated down with the victim’s family. Air Chief Marshal Alex Badeh was killed on 18 December when his convoy was attacked on the Keffi/Kaduna road in Abuja. His farm manager and another aide were subsequently abducted. FULL ARTICLE (1)


11. (CAMBODIA, 25/12/18) Thai tourists kidnapped in Siem Reap

On 25 December, five men posing as soldiers were arrested for kidnapping two Thai women. The victims, who had arrived to Siem Reap on 23 December, were travelling from the airport to their hotel in a tuk-tuk when they were accosted by the five criminals who were wearing military uniforms. They took the victims to an undisclosed location and forced them to phone their families in Thailand to transfer money to secure their release. They also sent photos of the victims to their families. The victims’ families however contacted the authorities and the Cambodian embassy in Thailand, who coordinated with Cambodian authorities in the instigation of a large-scale rescue operation, which successfully secured the release of the two Thai women. The police also arrested five members of the criminal gang involved in the kidnapping, and seized a pickup truck, a motorbike and an assault rifle. It is however believed that other people were involved in the incident, who are currently being sought by security forces. FULL ARTICLE (1)