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Kidnap & Ransom update September 9th, 2018


1. (MEXICO, 04/09/18) Oaxaca authorities warn on “sextortion” incidents

Oaxaca state cyber police recorded at least 20 complaints for “sextortion” by criminal groups that demanded money transfers to foreign bank accounts. Mauricio Suro, head of the Cybernetic Police of Oaxaca (SSPO), said that the typical modus operandi of these groups is to establish contact with victims via social networking pages and later through the Skype application. After the initial contact and several questions about the personal situation, the extortionists then manage to obtain compromising images of the victims. The criminals then threaten to disseminate the images to the victim’s contacts in various social networks, unless a payment takes place, typically through Western Union, or Moneygram, to bank accounts in foreign countries, including Ivory Coast. Some of the victims, not being able to pay, have been forced to join online prostitution networks. FULL ARTICLE

2. (MEXICO, 07/09/18) Mexican authorities find 166 skulls in Veracruz mass grave

Mexican investigators reported on 6 September they have found 166 skulls in clandestine burial pits in the Gulf coast state of Veracruz, one of the biggest mass graves discovered so far in Mexico. Veracruz state prosecutor Jorge Winckler said the bodies were buried at least two years ago and did not rule out finding more remains. He said investigators had found 114 ID cards in the field. Given the great levels of secrecy shown by the Veracruz government on this issue, it is believed the discovery was the result of information obtained through somebody with inside knowledge of the burials. Veracruz has been the scene of violent turf battles between the Zetas and Jalisco drug cartels, as well of widespread kidnapping and extortion. Groups of relatives of people missing in the state often perform their own searches for graves. In 2016 and 2017, Veracruz investigators found 253 skulls and bodies in burial pits outside the state capital, after relatives of missing people said they received a hand-drawn map from someone detailing the location of the graves. Mexican drug cartels frequently use clandestine pits to dispose of their victims. FULL ARTICLE

3. (COSTA RICA, 08/09/18) Victim released without payment in Heredia

A group of criminals who kidnapped a man and demanded 53 million colones (over USD 89,000) for his freedom, released the victim hours later without receiving any payment. The incident took place on 6 September in Heredia City. According to the local authorities, the kidnapping occurred in the afternoon and the release at 9 o’clock in the evening of the same day. The authorities said not knowing yet the motivations behind the kidnapping and the circumstances that led to the victim’s release. However, it was noted that at least three similar incidents have been recorded in the region in the last five months. FULL ARTICLE


4. (NETHERLANDS, 05/09/18) Three Dutch men arrested after kidnapping Belgian national

On 5 September, several police departments and a helicopter were deployed in the city of Tilburg for the rescue of a young Belgian man who had kidnapped. The Dutch Police had received overnight reports that one person had been kidnapped by three armed men. After a few hours of the incident, the helicopter identified the car carrying the three abductors and their victim. The vehicle was then chased by police on the ground, who were able to rescue the victim and arrest the three suspects. The victim has reportedly been handed over to the Belgian authorities. The reason behind the abduction remains unknown. FULL ARTICLE

5. (RUSSIA, 06/09/18) Turkmen citizens detained for kidnapping of conational

St. Petersburg police detained three Turkmen nationals, suspected in the abduction abducting of a compatriot. According to the case file, on 11 April the suspects violently forced the 33-year-old Turkmen victim into a car near the Street Dybenko metro station. The hostage was then taken to an apartment in Podvoisky Street, where he was brutally beaten. A ransom of USD 20,000 had been reportedly demanded for the hostage’s release. However, the kidnapped person managed to escape through a window the next day. FULL ARTICLE (1) (2)


6. (IRAQ, 07/09/18) Protesters hold oilfield staff hostage in Basra
On 7 September, protests that turned into riots in Basra city spilled into the nearby West Qurna 2 oilfield, managed by Russian oil company Lukoil. The crowd reportedly forced its way into a water treatment facility linked to the oilfield and held two Iraqi employees hostage, according to a company source and a source within Basra’s energy police. Less than an hour later, the protesters reportedly left the facility and set both employees free. No Lukoil employees were injured in the incident, according to Russian media sources. West Qurna 2 oilfield lies 65 km north-west of Basra, a city which has been hit by days of violent protests, leading the Iraqi government to impose a state of emergency in the Basra province. FULL ARTICLE (1)


7. (DRC, 06/09/18) Kidnapped customs officials released after ransom payment

Two Congolese customs agents held captive for six days in South Kivu were freed on 6 September after the payment of a USD 3,000 ransom, officials said. According to local officials, the sum was paid by relatives of the victims. Reportedly, the kidnappers had initially demanded USD15,000. The customs officials were kidnapped by unidentified gunmen on 1 September at the Vugizo border post along the Ruzizi River, at the border between the DRC and Burundi. FULL ARTICLE

8. (MALI, 07/09/18) Latest video of hostage Sophie Petronin released by relatives

On 6 September, relatives of Sophie Petronin released the latest video of the hostage held in Mali, reportedly received from the kidnappers in mid-June. In the 7-minutes video, professionally produced by JNIM’s media arm, az-Zallaqa, Petronin addresses her family. She particularly addresses her son, whom she requests to see, reassuring him about his safety. Petronin also addresses French president Emmanuel Macron, reminding him of his commitment to protect all French an accusing him of having forsaken her. The video also shows fellow hostage Gloria Cecilia Narvaez, a Colombian nun kidnapped in southern Mali in February 2017. Narvaez is seen thanking the Pope for his help and pleads for him to intercede for Petronin, who is very ill and requires medical attention. Sophie Petronin was kidnapped in Gao, Mali, in December 2016. The abduction was later claimed by jihadist organisation Jama’at Nasr al-Islam wal Muslimin (JNIM). FULL ARTICLE (1) (2)


9. (PAKISTAN, 08/09/18) Policemen arrested for membership in kidnap for ransom gang

Two officers of the Islamabad police have been arrested, suspected of being members of a kidnap for ransom gang. The arrest followed the report of the kidnapping of a property dealer in Islamabad. The dealer was reportedly held for four days until his brother paid Rs 400,000 (over USD 3,000) to the kidnappers. In addition to the two arrested policemen, other six officers, including an investigator and five constables, have been accused in the crime. FULL ARTICLE