GENERAL

Reporters Without Frontiers

15 December According to Reporters Without Borders (RSB)’s Annual Worldwide List of Journalists Held Hostage, Imprisoned or Missing report, 54 professional journalists are being held hostage worldwide, a 35% increase on last year. In Syria, non-state groups are holding the largest number of journalists – 26. Islamic State is holding 18, mainly in Syria and Iraq. RSB Secretary General Christophe Deloire said: “We are very alarmed by the increase in the number of reporters held hostage in 2015. The phenomenon is above all linked to the big surge in abductions of journalists in Yemen, where 33 were kidnapped by Houthi militias and al Qaeda in 2015, against two in 2014. Thirteen are still being held hostage”. Eight journalists were reported missing in 2015. Libya is the country most affected by this issue. Four Libyan journalists and an Egyptian cameraman, all employed by privately owned Barqa TV, were reported missing in 2015.

Aid workers

21 December According to the Aid Worker Security Database, a new record of violence against civilian aid operations was set in 2013 with 251 separate attacks affecting 460 aid workers. Of the 460 victims, 155 were killed, 171 seriously wounded and 134 kidnapped. Overall this was a 66% increase in the number of victims from 2012. Although the figures reduced in 2014, they were still at a high level.

AFRICA

Angola

5 December The National Police arrested four Chinese citizens in Viana District, Luanda, on suspicion of being involved in the kidnapping of another 48 year old Chinese. The victim was kidnapped from his residence and the kidnappers demanded USD5,000 for his release.

Burkina Faso

16 December The French Embassy warned its citizens against travelling to a national park, W Park, in Eastern Burkina Faso after reports that Malian Jihadists were threatening to kidnap foreigners. The park is named “W” as it is shaped like the letter around the contours of the River Niger.

Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)

5 December The US Department of State issued a travel warning to US citizens stating: “US citizens should avoid all but essential travel to the provinces of North Kivu, South Kivu, Bas-Uele, Haute-Uele and Ituriz and particularly the new provinces of Tanganyika and Haut-Lamami, where instability and sporadic violence continues”.

16 December Human Rights Watch said that at least 175 people, 172 Congolese and three foreign nationals, were kidnapped for ransom in the country in 2015. There were 35 separate incidents in Rutshuru territory, North Kivu province in the eastern part of the country, four in Goma, two in Nyirangongo and one in Walikede. The statement added that the actual number of cases is likely to be higher because relatives of the hostages did not inform the law enforcement agencies about every incident. Nearly all victims were released after relatives or employers paid ransoms but one remains missing. At least three victims were killed while another was fatally shot during a kidnapping attempt. Kidnappers normally demand between USD200 and USD30,000 but, according to former hostages, the amount paid is usually much lower. The kidnappers typically operate in groups of up to a dozen or more and are often heavily armed with Kalashnikovs and other military assault weapons. Many wear military clothes and appear to belong, or to have belonged, to one of the many armed groups active in eastern DRC including the Force for the Defence of the Interests of Congolese People (FDIPC). In April, FDIPC’s commander, Jean Emmanuel Biriko, alias Manoti, his wife and ten of his fighters were arrested on kidnapping charges but the crimes did not stop as other armed groups continued to operate in the area.

17 December The US State Department confirmed that a young female US citizen from Dayton, Ohio, working for Medecins Sans Frontieres, had been released by her kidnappers less than a week after she was kidnapped. The victim was kidnapped near Kitchanga along with another female companion working for the NGO who was also released. The US State Department official refused to give any details on the circumstances of the kidnapping, the release or when the victim would return to the US.

Libya

16 December Pierre Baldachino (36), a Maltese national and a manager at St James Hospital in Tripoli, was kidnapped as he travelled home in a car with three Libyan men. A group of men stopped the car and appeared to single him out to be kidnapped. He is the third Maltese national to be kidnapped in Libya this year. Noel Sciberras was kidnapped in Tajoura by a gang who are reported to have demanded a ransom of 5 million Euros (USD5,500,000) but he was rescued in November after 47 days by a team of Libyan special forces. In July, Martin Galea, an oil worker, was held for 11 days before being released through the work of Libyan intermediaries. On 22 December, a short video clip released by Tripolis Deterrent Force (Rada), an armed group affiliated with the Tripoli based government’s Interior Ministry, shows the victim alongside two masked gunmen who appear to have been part of a rescue team. The victim says: “I am Pierre Baldachino; I have been kidnapped a week ago by the highway”. He goes on to explain that he was blindfolded and bound throughout captivity and thanks the gunmen. The Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has thanked the Libyan authorities for their coordination with security forces in Valetta.

18 December A Serbian Ministry of Foreign Affairs official said that there is no information that the two Serbian embassy employees, Sladjana Stankovic and Jovica Stepic, are in the hands of the Islamic State but that that contacts in Tripoli have confirmed the two are alive. They were kidnapped on 8 November when a convoy of vehicles containing the Serbian Ambassador, who escaped, was attacked near Sabratha. The Serbian authorities have not received any demands from the kidnappers, nor have any deadlines been set.

Mali

2 December Stephen McGowan, a South African who has been a hostage for four years, appeared in a video given by his kidnappers to the humanitarian organisation, Gift of the Givers. He was looking thin and sporting a long beard. In the video he says: “My name is Stephen McGowan, I’m a South African citizen. Today’s date is the 20th of October 2015. Short message to the South African government: I thank you for your continued efforts in negotiating my release. My wife and my family, I am well. I hope you are all well back home. I understand I will be seeing you soon. I believe that there is an organisation, a South African organisation involved, brokering the release. I thank this organisation .... I thank this organisation for everything, for ... really for bringing this to a close and having me home. Thank you”. Johan Gustafsson, a Swedish citizen, also appears in the video and leaves a similar message. The two men were kidnapped in Timbuktu by al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) in November 2011. Gift of the Givers said: “The road is still long but we will make progress”.

4 December Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) chief, Abdelmalek Droukdel, an Algerian, said in an audio message: “The lions of al Murabitoun brigade have joined al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, so that they are one sword in the throat of their first enemy, Crusader France and its agents in the area”. He added that the attack in Bamako underlined their new unity “with blood and sweat”. Al Murabitoun, the terrorist group of Mokhtar Belmokhtar, confirmed in an audio message that it is joining AQIM. Gunmen attacked the Radisson Blu Hotel in Bamako on 20 November and took guests and hotel staff hostage. Twenty people were killed during the incident. Another jihadist group from central Mali, the Macina Liberation Front, also claimed responsibility for the attack.

Mozambique

2 December The Police of the Republic of Mozambique (PRM) announced that it had rescued Hariche Arquissandas, the businessman of Indian descent who was kidnapped from his Triunfo, Maputo, home on 24 November. On 27 November, the PRM located the kidnappers’ hideout in Liberdade, Matola, but the gang was tipped off and fled with their victim before the PRM arrived. A second rescue operation was mounted on a hideout in Ndlhavela, Matola, at around 8:00pm. A team of specialist officers had set a trap for the kidnappers who were expecting to receive the ransom. However, the kidnappers were again tipped off and fled and evaded arrest. On 13 December, the PRM arrested Ercilio Eduardo Maundla in connection with the kidnapping. The suspect owns the vehicle that was used at the abduction and is said to have been in charge of negotiating and collecting the ransom. Maundla vehemently denies the charges.

4 December The Maputo City Court sentenced Celio Mazuze who, up until his arrest, worked in the Ministry of Justice, and Nilson Delalande who is already serving a 24 year sentence for murder, to jail for 23 years for their involvement in the kidnapping of an unnamed British woman aged over 60 years on 18 April 2015. The victim was shot and dragged into a car before being driven to Marrcuene, about 30 kilometres north of Maputo, where they tried unsuccessfully to burn the car. Three days later the police found the car with traces of the victim’s blood and one of her shoes. Delalande made a telephone call from prison to the victim’s family and demanded a ransom of USD1 million. The victim has never reappeared and the court feared that she is dead. She was known to have had a heart condition and lost a lot of blood after being shot.

Niger

29 December Former French hostage, Thierry Dol (34), an engineer from Martinique, said that he was going to sue the French state and his employer, energy company Areva, to establish the circumstances surrounding his rescue in October 2013 after three years captivity. He said that, even today, he did not know whether or not a ransom was paid for his release. He added that he was angry with Areva as he says a note received by the company in 2010 urged its employees to be more careful and he thought Areva would evacuate its employees from the area. His personal request to be transferred was agreed in August 2010 but his departure was delayed while a replacement was trained. On 16 September 2010, he was kidnapped by jihadists from al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) from the Arlit mine site.

Nigeria

4 December Alhaji Ganiyu Galadima, National Chairman of the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria and presidential candidate of the party in the 2015 general election, was kidnapped by gunmen in Osara village, Kogi State, as he was travelling to attend the burial of his elder brother in Ilorin, Kwara State. The National Chairman of the Inter Party Advisory Council and Chairman of the Progressive Peoples Alliance, Chief Peter Ameh, confirmed the kidnapping and said the kidnappers had made contact with the victim’s family by telephone demanding N40 million (USD200,000) for the victim’s release.

5 December Prince Eke, a Nollywood actor, was kidnapped while travelling along the Port Harcourt to Owerri road. The kidnappers contacted his wife, Muma Gee, on 7 December and demanded a ransom of N15 million (USD75,400). On 14 December, she said she had not heard anything further from the kidnappers and feared for her husband’s safety. On 16 December, the victim was released at around 2:00am after being held in a forest. The family did not disclose if any ransom had been paid.

7 December Mrs. Queen Ehizogie Adeyeye, a Federal Medical Centre, Owo, pharmacist, was kidnapped by gunmen as she arrived at her residence by car from church accompanied by her son and sister. She had gone to church to mark the anniversary of her husband’s death. The kidnappers stormed the compound as the gate opened to allow the victim’s car to enter. The kidnappers ordered the sister and son out of the car before taking their victim away. There have been no reports that the kidnappers have demanded a ransom.

8 December Poland’s Prime Minister, Beata Szydlo, announced that the five Polish sailors, the captain and four crew members of the container ship, Szafir, who were kidnapped by pirates off the coast of southern Nigeria on 27 November, had been released. Warsaw announced the previous week that it had made contact with the kidnappers to negotiate their release. The Prime Minister thanked Nigerian officials for their help as well as the Polish Foreign Minister but did not reveal the circumstances of the victims’ release, including whether Poland had paid a ransom although reports claimed that the shipping company, EuroAfrica, had allegedly paid a ransom.

9 December Uwem Umanah, elder brother of the Akwa Ibom State Commissioner for Information, Aniekan Umanah, was kidnapped by unknown gunmen in Abak, Ibom State. The kidnappers fired sporadically into the air to frighten off passersby before taking their victim away. The kidnappers contacted the victim’s family and demanded N100 million (USD502,500) for his release but later reduced the demand to N30 million (USD150,750) before releasing the victim. It is not known how much the family eventually paid.

16 December Fatai Owoseni, Lagos State Commissioner of Police, said at the ninth Town Hall Meeting on Security organised by Lagos State Security Trust Fund under a theme, Refreshing Our Security Model, that no fewer than 220 people were murdered in Lagos during the first nine months of 2015. He added that there were 26 cases of kidnapping over the same period and that the police arrested 25 suspected kidnappers and rescued 24 kidnap victims.

16 December The Enugu State Police Command arrested three notorious kidnappers who often killed their victims after collecting the ransom money. The three men were arrested in hideouts in Lagos and Enugu States. The police said that the suspects had kidnapped Okonkwo Affa on 21 November in Udi Government Area, Enugu State. They demanded N10 million (USD50,250) for his release. They tied the victim’s hands and legs, denied him food and water for seven days and beat him badly. When he died, they abandoned his corpse in the bush and fled. The ring leader of the gang has confessed saying that their plan was to make quick money.

18 December Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the Minister of Information and Culture, said that Boko Haram terrorists are planning another sensational kidnapping of pupils/students or foreigners. He added that the mainly defeated terrorists are now concentrating their attacks on soft targets such as motor parks, schools and entertainment centres.

19 December Two Catholic Priests, Reverend Father Franklyn Odiaka, and Reverend Father Moses Nwanochei, were kidnapped by unknown gunmen at Obior, Aniocha North Local Government Area, Delta State, while they were returning from a ceremony in honour of the Bishop of Issele-Uku Diocese. A source within the Diocese, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the kidnappers had contacted some priests and demanded N100 million (USD502,500) for the release of the two priests.

19 December Nancy Keme Dickson, younger sister of Seriake Dickson, Governor of Bayelsa State, was kidnapped along with her sales assistant at around 2:50pm by four gunmen riding in a vehicle that trailed her to her shop in Okaka Road, Yenagoa, Bayelsa State.

20 December Madam Serefina Otazi, Bayelsa State Commissioner for Local Government and a niece of former President Goodluck Jonathan, was kidnapped by six gunmen while travelling by car with a driver and two female companions. The driver and the two other ladies were unharmed but the kidnappers took the car keys. The incident happened at Otuoke as the victim was travelling to a funeral at Otuabula. On 28 December, security sources said that the kidnappers had contacted the victim’s family and demanded a ransom of N100 million (USD502,500) although the family contradicted the amount and said the kidnappers had demanded N40 million (USD201,000).

27 December Imo State Police Command exhumed the remains of Madam Ogo Omereji (63) who had been kidnapped, murdered and her body buried in a shallow grave. The victim had been kidnapped by three armed men from her farm on 26 September and, allegedly, the family paid a ransom of N500,000 (USD2,500). The police arrested three suspects that included the victim’s nephews.

27 December Reverend Friday Phillip, a Uyo based clergyman, was kidnapped while travelling with his wife and a child on their way to visit one of his in-laws in Oron, Akwa Ibom State. Gunmen in a car overtook and blocked the victim’s vehicle forcing it to stop. They ordered the victim and his wife out of their car before forcing him into their vehicle and speeding away. The kidnappers later contacted the victim’s family and demanded a ransom of N50 million (USD251,250).

27 December Mrs. Palsy Elekima, a member of the Caretaker Committee of Degema Local Council, Port Harcourt, Rivers State, and her son were kidnapped by unidentified gunmen in Buguma while attending the Miss Buguma Beauty Pageant. According to eye witnesses, two people were shot dead during the kidnapping.

South Africa

20 December A kidnapping gang that kidnapped for ransom several wealthy businessmen and their children in Maputo, Mozambique, are now believed to be operating in South Africa. The gang is thought to be responsible for the kidnapping of Mehboob Valimamade (54) from outside his residence in Sherwood, Durban, as he returned from the mosque. The victim holds both South African and Mozambican passports and runs an import and export company. His daughter watched as he arrived at his residence, alighted from his car to open the gate and was overpowered by the kidnappers who pushed him into their vehicle and drove away. It is alleged that the kidnappers have contacted the victim’s family and demanded a ransom. A police spokeswoman confirmed the incident. Several businessmen moved to South Africa after a number of high profile kidnappings in Maputo from 2011.

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