Kidnap & Ransom update – March 22, 2019
22-Mar-19

AMERICAS

1. (TRINIDAD & TOBAGO, 19/03/19) Trinidadian fishermen attacked by Venezuelan kidnappers

On the night of 18 March, two Trinidadian fishermen were kidnapped by Venezuelan pirates in waters off Bonasse. They were accosted by gunmen who ordered them into another vessel, while stealing their equipment valued at around USD 30,000. The two victims tried to escape by jumping off their abductors’ boat. However, only one made it home safely. The other man remains missing. Later, the kidnappers contacted the families of both the fishermen, clearly not knowing one of them had already reached home. They demanded USD 5,000 for the fisherman who is still missing, and USD 10,000 for the one who was safe at home. The kidnappers threatened to kill the fishermen if they did not pay. It is unknown if the missing man was recaptured or died trying to escape. FULL ARTICLE

2. (VENEZUELA, 21/03/19) Opposition leader’s senior aide allegedly kidnapped by intelligence agents

The Venezuelan opposition leader, Juan Guaido, has said that intelligence agents illegally arrested his chief of staff, Roberto Marrero. Reportedly, the arrest took place during a pre-dawn raid at Marrero’s residence in Caracas, with an second raid targeting opposition legislator Sergio Vergara. Guaido attributed both incidents to President Nicolas Maduro’s crackdown on the opposition. The opposition has demanded their unconditional release. FULL ARTICLE (1)

3. (US, 21/03/19) Georgia county still recovering after paying Ryuk ransom

In late February, the Ryuk ransomware silently made its way through the systems of the government of Jackson County, Georgia, impacting every single one of the county’s agencies on or 1 March. Given the nature of the Ryuk virus, it is assessed it was a targeted attack, which effectively crippled the county’s administration. Jackson County was instructed to pay a ransom of USD 400,000. This amount was higher than the average ransom demanded in Ryuk incidents over 2018, which would appear to represent growing confidence by the virus operators. Jackson County reportedly hired professionals to negotiate the ransom with the hackers. While it is known the county paid a ransom between 6 and 8 March, the final amount is unknown. It is believed the decryption provided by the hackers after the payment was effective, although some post-incident maintenance was reportedly needed. According to cybersecurity firm Coveware, decryption keys provided by the Ryuk criminals after payment have been only successful in 65% of the recorded incidents. Meanwhile, the Massachusetts Committee for Public Counsel Services (CPCS) — the state agency that oversees Massachusetts attorneys’ public-defense work — was itself struck by Ryuk about two days before the Jackson County attack was made public. However, in this case, CPCS refused to pay the ransom because it had backups of its data. FULL ARTICLE

AFRICA

4. (MADAGASCAR, 22/03/19) Kidnapped parliamentary candidate found dead

The body of Bonjean Haingotiana Rakotozafy, the parliamentary candidate who was kidnapped on 10 March, was found in decomposition state in a rural area of Andakana, on 21 March. According to local authorities, the kidnappers contacted the candidate’s relatives the next day, demanding a ransom of 40 million Ariary (over USD 11,000). The family had reportedly paid a first installment of the ransom on the same day. However, on the last communication with the kidnappers on 16 March, the family was told Rakotozafy had already been killed the previous days (15 March) as they had failed to make the second payment. FULL ARTICLE

ASIA

5. (AFGHANISTAN, 18/03/19) Kidnapped Indian national repatriated from Afghanistan

The government of India announced on 18 March that one of the seven Indian engineers who were kidnapped in Baghlan province of Afghanistan, on 6 May 2018, had safely returned to India. New Delhi also expressed its gratitude to the Afghan authorities for their support in securing the release and repatriation of the victim, at the same time affirming they continue to work on the release of the remaining captives. No more information was made available by the authorities. FULL ARTICLE (1)

6. (PAKISTAN, 21/03/19) Pakistan rescues four Iranian soldiers from militant group

Pakistan has rescued four Iranian soldiers who had been held captive by a militant group in the country’s southwest, the Pakistani military said in a statement on 21 March. The rescue reportedly took place in the Chaghi district of Balochistan province, near the Afghan border, allegedly following exchange of fire with the kidnappers. The Pakistani authorities did not disclose when the rescue took place, and although the statement said the soldiers were handed over to Iranian authorities, it did not say when either. The name of the group holding the soldiers was also not mentioned, only that it was a “proscribed” group, which had entered Pakistan from Afghanistan. The rescue comes months after the extremist group Jaish al-Adl claimed the abduction of 12 Iranian security personnel in October 2018 near the border between Iran and Pakistan. Five of the soldiers were released later by Islamabad. FULL ARTICLE (1)