MIDDLE EAST

Lebanon

26 August Four masked men who kidnapped Lebanese national, Qassem Mohammed Mahdi, after stopping his rented Range Rover in the Bekaa Valley, were forced to release him after the rental company disabled his car. The kidnappers were driving a BMW when they intercepted the victim’s car. Witnesses to the incident swiftly informed the security forces who informed his family who, in turn, informed the rental company which managed to disable the car through an anti-theft GPS system installed in the vehicle.

Syria

13 August Sources said that Arab-Christian clergymen in the Middle East are being targeted for abduction, torture and execution by radical Islamic groups. John Newton, spokesperson for the Catholic relief agency, Aid to the Church in Need, told a Christian Post reporter: “I know of one priest who was kidnapped for two months. The kidnappers asked for a ransom of USD120,000 which the family managed to raise and deliver. Hours later, the priest was killed and his body cut up, with pieces of him sent in a box to the family”. In another incident last month, Father Dhiya Aziz, a Franciscan priest serving in northern Syria, was released after almost a week in the hands of alleged jihadist abductors who wanted to “profit on his release”. Al Nusra Jabhat, a group affiliated to al Qaeda, has denied any involvement in the priest’s kidnapping.

15 August Three “leaked” images shared on social media appear to show three Assyrian Christian women who were kidnapped by the Islamic State in February 2015. The pictures show the women holding pieces of paper on which their names and a date – 27 July 2015 – are written. It is feared they will be sold to Islamic State fighters if their families or charities do not pay ransoms for their release although no figure appears on the paper they are seen holding. Earlier in the week, 22, including 14 women, of more than 220 Assyrian Christians who had been kidnapped by the Islamic State, were released. The British based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said tribal leaders mediated the release of the 22 hostages, adding that money had been paid for their release.

18 August In an interview with the Press Association marking World Humanitarian Day on 19 August, Mike Haines, brother of David Haines, the British humanitarian worker who was kidnapped and beheaded by the Islamic State, recalled his brother’s unwavering support of the British government’s policy of not negotiating with terrorists. He added: “David had always said that even if the government was OK with paying ransoms, if a single pound was paid for his release he would have nothing to do with it”.

Yemen

5 August Abdulkader Alguneid, a prominent local journalist, was kidnapped at 1:30pm when members of the Houthi militia broke into his home in Taiz. As the most prominent media voice in Taiz, he used his platform to expose Houthi crimes and it is believed his kidnapping was to silence his broadcasts.

7 August French officials announced that Isabelle Prime (31), a Frenchwoman working on a World Bank funded project, had been released by her kidnappers. French Foreign Minister, Laurent Fabius, said: “We had indications that her death was not far off. If we had not got her out, she would be dead”. When asked if a ransom had been paid, a French official said France never gave details on either the detention or release of hostages. Neighbouring Oman has often played a mediating role in hostage releases. She had been kidnapped along with her translator, Shareen Makawi, in Sana’a on 24 February 2015. The translator was released shortly after the kidnapping. The kidnappers released a video in June showing the victim making an appeal to the French and Yemeni authorities to obtain her release. She was dressed in black and appeared visibly distressed. She said in the video that she had tried to kill herself “several times” as she feared she would never be released.

23 August British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said that the British petroleum engineer, Robert Douglas Semple (64), had been freed in a “military intelligence” operation by United Arab Emirates (UAE) forces. The victim was kidnapped in February 2014 by suspected al Qaeda linked militants while working in Hadramaut province and nothing was heard from him apart from a video posted to YouTube by Arab broadcaster AlziandiQ8 seven months after his kidnapping in which he pleaded: “Please, British or Yemen, please help me get back to my family. These guys are going to kill me, quickly, I feel”. No information was given as to where the victim was being held or any details of the rescue operation. On 25 August, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) posted a statement on Twitter saying: “The UAE government claims it freed a Briton whom al Qaeda had kidnapped. We affirm …. That this news is untrue”. It added there were no British hostages in its custody.

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