Kidnap & Ransom update – January 13, 2019
13-Jan-19

AMERICAS

1. (COLOMBIA, 10/01/19) Kidnapped engineer held in Venezuela

Arauca police confirmed that engineer José Antonio Bermúdez Contreras, who was kidnapped by a Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) dissident group on 7 December, was held in Venezuelan territory. Bermúdez was kidnapped from his state in the municipality of Tame along with his wife, by a group of armed men who identifying themselves as members of the 10th Front of the FARC. The victim’s wife was released soon after, presumably to gather the ransom demanded by the militants. Bermúdez was released on 10 December. According to reports, he had been kidnapped because he did not pay right-to-operate fees due to the group for a number of recent contracts undertaken by the engineer in the area. It is currently unclear if any payment was made for the release of the engineer. FULL ARTICLE (1)

2. (BRAZIL, 08/01/19) Brazilian family held for ransom in Bahia

An important local businessman and son of a former mayor, and nine of his family members, including five children, was held hostage in the city of Prado, Bahia state. The incident took place on 6 January, after six armed men invaded the family home. Soon after, the businessman and three other adults were let go, to raise the ransom for the rest of the family. The hostages were released on the night of 7 January, after the kidnappers were paid 300,000 reais (USD 81,000). No arrests have been made so far. FULL ARTICLE

3. (BOLIVIA, 11/01/19) South African woman rescued in Santa Cruz

A South African woman was rescued by Bolivian police from a property located in the city of Santa Cruz de la Sierra, where she was being held by a group of drug traffickers who wanted her to transport drugs to South Africa. Three suspected kidnappers were arrested in the operation, including a Nigerian, a Guinean and a Venezuelan. Marlyn Walters arrived in Bolivia in September 2018, deceived by the Nigerian suspect, who was an acquaintance of hers. She had been initially lured to Brazil where she was offered a job as a carer for a pregnant woman there. After being in Brazil for a while, she was taken to Bolivia, where she was told she wouldn’t be paid or let go if she did not transport drugs for them. The victim was reported missing by her relatives in South Africa after not hearing from her since her departure. FULL ARTICLE

4. (COLOMBIA, 08/01/19) Private helicopter attacked, crew kidnapped

A helicopter belonging to Brinks company, which carried out cash-in-transit services, was attacked and brought down in the municipality of Hacarí and San José, area of ​​Catatumbo, Norte de Santander department. After the attack, the assailants took its three-man crew hostage, stilling also COP 1.7 million they transported, and later incinerating the aircraft. Colombian Police and Army are carrying out search operations to find the whereabouts of the victims. No group has claimed the attack but both the National Liberation Army (ELN) and organised criminal group Los Pelusos are known to operate in the area. FULL ARTICLE (1)

MIDDLE EAST

5. (SYRIA, 11/01/19) British humanitarian worker allegedly rescued by militants in Idlib

Footage has emerged showing the apparent rescue of a British aid worker missing in northern Syria since November 2018. Mohammed Shakiel Shabir, a British humanitarian worker who had been based in Idlib for the past four years, is believed to had been kidnapped and held hostage by an armed criminal gang. The video, which was originally posted by the media arm of the Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS, formerly Al Nusra Front) militant group, shows Shabir being rescued by HTS militants, who break down the door of a cell where he is seen shackled to the wall. The rescue reportedly took place on 9 January 2019 in the Idlib countryside. In the video, one of the rescuer addresses the camera and pledges to “get rid of these kidnapping gangs and the regime forces.” A number of local sources confirmed Shabir had been rescued. These sources included London-based advocacy organisation Cage, whose spokesman confirmed the information and said the gang holding Shabir had demanded USD 4 million for his release. Another charity official said that the rescue operation took place after members of the gang holding Shabir were stopped at a checkpoint. During the search, photos of Shakiel were discovered in the car. FULL ARTICLE

AFRICA

6. (DRC, 08/01/19) Ugandan released after ransom payment

A Ugandan man who had been kidnapped by unknown Congolese armed militias from his house on the DRC side of Kanungu town on 7 January, has been released by his captors. Isaya Mbeeta was freed on 8 January, after his family paid 1.5 million shillings to the kidnappers, out of the 2 million shillings (USD 532) originally demanded. FULL ARTICLE

7. (Burkina Faso, 10/01/19) Malian refugees kidnapped form camp

Five Malian refugees were abducted on 9 January from the Goudebo camp in the Dibissi area of ​​Burkina Faso. According to eyewitnesses, the refugees disappeared after a group of armed men arrived to the camp on motorcycles. There is no additional information on the victims’ fate at the moment. FULL ARTICLE