SECURITY UPDATE – APRIL 2014


MIDDLE EAST


Iraq


18 April Reports stated that anti-government fighters, that include the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), an al Qaeda splinter group, as well as other Sunni Muslim militias and tribes, had blown up the pipeline feeding crude oil to the Baiji refinery and had kidnapped the head of the Haditha refinery.

Syria


10 April The Kuwaiti Government announced that three Kuwaiti citizens had been kidnapped in Syria. No reason was given for the three people being in Syria and it was not specified what group was responsible for the kidnappings. The Kuwaiti newspaper reported that the kidnappers had demanded Euros 1 million (USD725,000). Kuwait has contacted the Turkish authorities to seek help in obtaining the release of the victims.

19 April Four French journalists, Edouard Elias, Didier Francois, Nicolas Henin and Pierre Torres, were found by Turkish soldiers on the border between Turkey and Syria. The men were bound and blindfolded. They had been kidnapped in Syria in June 2013. The first two had been kidnapped on 6 June in Aleppo while working for Europe 1 radio while the last two were kidnapped on 22 June in Raqqa while working for Le Point. The jihadist group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has been accused of kidnapping the men. Didier Francois said the four had been chained together and kept in basements without natural light. Negotiations with the kidnappers had been going on for several weeks but French Foreign Minister, Laurent Fabius, denied a ransom had been paid or that weapons had been delivered to the kidnappers. Two European intelligence agents involved in cases of other hostages said they thought ISIS had received a sizeable payment for releasing the four hostages. In the past, an unidentified Arabian Gulf country, has brokered and paid ransoms on behalf of hostages on three previous occasions.

Yemen


1 April Rudiger Schwidt, a German citizen in his 60s, who was kidnapped in January in Sana’a, was shown on a private TV channel, Al-Yemen Al-Youm. He was wearing dark glasses and a traditional Arab white robe. He appeared alongside a kidnapper, said to be Ali Harijiwan. The TV channel cited the kidnapper as saying he had threatened to “sell the hostage to al Qaeda” and also demanded USD5 million. A source close to the kidnapper told Agence France Presse that the victim’s health was deteriorating and he required cancer treatment that is not available in Yemen.

14 April The Interior Ministry said that an armed group had kidnapped a foreign doctor in the north of the country. A local official said the doctor, Salif John, is from Uzbekistan.. The victim was kidnapped from a hospital where he worked in Marib province late the previous evening. He was released on 19 April after tribal mediators had succeeded in convincing armed tribesmen to release him according to a provincial official. Local sources said that the release was after tribal mediators paid a ransom to the kidnappers. Seventeen kidnapping cases have been recorded in Sana’a during the past two years out of a total of 35 cases countrywide. In addition, there have been four in Abyan, three in Shabwa, and two in each of Marib, Hodeida and Taiz. Five victims are still being held – an Ukrainian doctor, Iranian diplomat, Saudi Arabian diplomat, American journalist and a Sierra Leonean adviser.

24 April A foreigner working for an oil company killed two Yemenis when they tried to kidnap him as he left a barber’s shop in the centre of Sana’a. The identity and nationality of the foreigner was subject to speculation as he did not report the incident to the police. An official said he believed the foreigner was a Russian but a newspaper claimed he was American. The foreigner was slightly injured during the incident. On 28 April, security officials reported that the intended victim of the kidnapping attempt was a German national.

30 April An Interior Ministry spokesman said that, one month ago, security forces had arrested six members of what he called a terrorist cell. During the raid, the security forces found weapons, fake passports and fake Yemeni money in the possession of the cell. The gang was planning to kidnap the United Arab Emirates’ charge d’affaires. The gang members confessed that they were going to receive a reward of 5 million Saudi Riyals (USD1.33 million) and a four wheel drive vehicle if they were successful. It was not clear who had promised the money and vehicle.

Information courtesy of Griffin Underwriting

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