Kidnap & Ransom update June 14, 2018
14-Jun-18

AMERICAS

1. (CANADA, 13/06/18) Virtual kidnapping in Vancouver
On 13 June, the Vancouver Police Department (VPD) announced that a Chinese woman in her twenties, staying in Vancouver on a student visa, was the victim of a virtual-kidnapping scam. She received a telephone call from an individual purporting to be a Chinese Police Officer, using a number that appeared to be from an actual Chinese police phone. This was achieved via a fraudulent technique known as spoofing. The caller told the victim she was being investigated for money laundering, and that she was required to transfer money for police and court expenses, which she did through a bitcoin ATM. Additionally, the victim was also convinced to send compromising photos, which were subsequently used by the assailants to demand a ransom from her family believing she had been kidnapped. The family reportedly paid the ransom, though this figure, along with the original payment made by the victim, have yet to be disclosed. Two other foreign students have also been targeted by such schemes in Canada so far this year. FULL ARTICLE (1)

2. (MEXICO, 11/06/18) Kidnapping rate increases by 12.3% in Mexico over May
The ‘Stop Kidnapping’ organisation released its national report this week, which announced that the rate of kidnappings in Mexico increased by 12.3% from April to May. It also reported that, between December 2012 and May 2018, there have been 11,138 kidnappings in the country, equating to six per day. Since December 2012, the states with the highest incidence rates are Mexico State (2,512 cases), Tamaulipas (1,225), Veracruz (1,093), Guerrero (941) and Mexico City (816). In its report, ‘Stop Kidnapping’ also stated that, whilst Mexico State has the overall highest number of kidnapping cases over the past five years, Veracruz now has a higher rate, registering 24 kidnappings in May as opposed to 20 in Mexico State, despite having only half of its population. FULL ARTICLE

3. (MEXICO, 13/06/18) Mexican businessman released after ransom payment
Martin Baroza Cejas, a high-ranking executive of KHS, was kidnapped on 12 June in Piedras Negras, despite heightened security in the city following the assassination of Mexican politician Fernando Puron on the same day. Cejas was abducted and forced into a car as he was leaving a hotel, after which the assailants demanded a ransom of 100,000 pesos (USD 4,850) for his release. This sum was paid, though it was reported that the kidnappers subsequently demanded a larger sum, though it is currently unknown if this was received. The victim was released at around 1300hrs on 13 June. FULL ARTICLE­ (1)

EUROPE

4. (FRANCE, 12/06/18) Paris hostage situation resolved
On 12 June, an armed man took three people hostage in a building in Paris, on the rue des Petites Ecuries. One managed to escape, though the two others where held captive for four hours during a stand-off with police which resulted in the arrest of the suspect and the rescue of the victims. Both were unharmed, though had reportedly been doused in petrol. The hostage-taker had demanded contact with the Iranian Embassy to deliver a message to the French government, according to the authorities. He also claimed he had an accomplice outside the building with a bomb, though after police evacuated and searched the area, no device was found. While there was no indication of a terrorist motive, Paris has recently been a hotspot for insurgent individuals and groups. At present however, no details on the age or nationality of the assailant have been disclosed. FULL ARTICLE (1) (2) (3)

MIDDLE EAST

5. (IRAQ, 11/06/18) IS militants kidnap five people in Kirkuk
Islamic State (IS) militants kidnapped five people, including a prominent figure among the Kakai population in the region, from Zanqar village in Kirkuk province. According to a PUK official, the other four victims were Arab labourers. At present, it is unknown if the abductees are still alive. IS have been particularly active in the region over the last few months, having conducted a number of raids on Kirkuk villages. A spokesperson for the Shia PMUs announced on 11 June that militias repulsed an attack involving 20 IS members, who targeted Qara Tapa village in the Dubis district of Kirkuk. FULL ARTICLE

AFRICA

6. (BURKINA FASO, 11/06/18) Teacher released after two months in captivity
A Burkinabe teacher, Souabou Issouf, was released on 11 June after being held captive since 12 April. He was abducted from the Bouro commune by suspected insurgents, with his release confirmed on Monday by the Minister of Education, Professor Stanislas Ouaro. At present it remains unknown if any ransom payment was made for Issouf’s release. Militant groups operating toward the north of the country have been involved in a number of kidnappings, often involving members of the education sector. As a result, several schools have been abandoned by teachers and students across the region. FULL ARTICLE (1)

7. (KENYA, 12/06/18) Five arrested in Nakuru after abducting a child
On 12 June, police in Nakuru rescued an eight-year-old child who had been kidnapped on the outskirts of Nakuru and held captive for five days. The assailants had demanded a ransom of Sh 300,000 (USD 2,975), which was subsequently paid by the victim’s parents. Following a widespread campaign on social media, police launched a sting operation at the Pipeline Estate, where the kidnappers were reported to have been holding the child. The operation concluded successfully and resulted in the arrest of five suspects. FULL ARTICLE

8. (MADAGASCAR, 11/06/18) Wealthy businessman kidnapped in Madagascar
On the evening of 11 June, Mustafa Hiridjee, a member of one of Madagascar’s wealthiest and most powerful families, was abducted in Alarobia commune as he was leaving his office. The Hiridjee group is responsible for a number of enterprises in Madagascar, including telecoms, banking, real estate and oil distribution. At present, it is unknown whether or not a ransom has been demanded for Hiridjee’s release, though a spate of similar kidnappings have been recorded in Madagascar, likely economically-motivated. Notably, on 8 June, another wealthy businessman, Navage Veldjee, was released after 15 days being held captive following his abduction in Ampasapito. It is thought he was released following the payment of a ransom. FULL ARTICLE

9. (MALI, 13/06/18) AQIM release video of two female hostages
On 13 June, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) released a proof-of-life video showing footage of two kidnap victims who have been in captivity for over a year. The video was released by AQIM’s Mali-based affiliate, known as Jama’a Nusrat ul-Islam wa al-Muslimin (JNIM), on telegram, and depicted Colombian nun Gloria Narvaez and French aid worker Sophie Petronin. The former was kidnapped near the border with Burkina Faso in February 2017, while the latter was seized in late 2016 in Mali’s northeastern Gao region. Repeated calls have been made by the insurgent group demanding payment for the hostages’ release. The kidnapping of foreigners has been particularly lucrative for militants operating in the Sahel over the past decade, which incorporates central Mali. FULL ARTICLE (1) (2)

10. (NIGERIA, 14/06/18) Abductors reduce ransom for INEC official
On 5 June, gunmen abducted Otobong Ukpong, an official of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), at the Uruk Ata 2 end of the Ekparakwa-Azumini highway whilst on his way to work in the Ukanafun Local Government Area office in Akwa Ibom State. The abductors originally demanded a ransom of NGN 10 million (USD 28,000) for Ukpong’s release, but subsequently reduced it to NGN 500,000 (USD 1,400) on 13 June after family members flatly refused the original ransom. The victim’s brother has confirmed that negotiations remain ongoing with the kidnappers. FULL ARTICLE (1) (2)