ASIA

Afghanistan

19 December The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said that an employee was pulled from an ICRC vehicle and kidnapped in the north of the country. The victim was among several ICRC staff members travelling between Mazar-i-Sharaf and Kunduz when gunmen stopped the vehicles. The gunmen allowed the other members to go free. The ICRC did not give any details about the kidnapped employee but a spokesman for the Kunduz governor said the group included two Afghans, a foreigner and a driver.

20 December The Taliban aligned Haqqani insurgent network released a four minute video showing Canadian Joshua Boyle and his partner, American Caitlan Coleman, along with their two young sons who were born while the couple have been held by the insurgent group, sitting on their laps. Ms. Coleman begged for the end of their “Kafkaesque nightmare”. She continued saying: “We have waited since 2012 for someone to understand our problems. My children have seen their mother defiled”. She concluded by appealing to President Barack Obama and President-elect Donald Trump to rescue her family. The couple were kidnapped in Afghanistan in 2012 during a camping trip while she was pregnant. Haqqani has demanded the release of three of its prisoners held in the country. The parents of Caitlan Coleman said they took comfort in seeing their daughter and grandchildren looking healthy and added that it was the first time they had ever seen the children.

India

11 December Five kidnappers were sentenced by a court in Chennai to life imprisonment for the kidnapping of an industrialist’s daughter who was a college student. Allegedly, the five had recently kidnapped the girl and demanded a ransom from her father of Rs.2 crore (USD395,650). Acting on information from members of the public, the police raided a house in Pozhichalur, suburban Chennai, arrested the five kidnappers and rescued the victim.

25 December According to Mumbai police officials, two minors aged 16 and 17 years had been arrested in connection with the kidnapping of a three and a half years old girl on 5 December. The two boys lived in the same building as their victim and kidnapped her as she was playing alone on the veranda. The kidnappers contacted the girl’s father and demanded a ransom of Rs.1 crore (USD197,800). The kidnappers held her in a room in a nearby building but panicked and strangled her before placing her body in a sack and dumping it.

Pakistan

20 December From January to December 2016, 296 cases of kidnappings for ransom were recorded in Lahore, Punjab State.. However, 42 cases were later proved to be false leaving 254 actual cases. Victims included innocent children, respected traders, industrialists and even Pakistani-born British nationals. Seven of the victims were freed after paying ransoms but the police tried to take the credit by holding press conferences. The reality was that not only had the police failed to rescue kidnap victims, they had not arrested a single kidnappers. Among the cases were that of Salman Oervez, kidnapped from Iqbal Town and for whose release a ransom of Rs.5.5 crore (USD524,900) was paid; the son of Kamran Hafeez who was kidnapped from Shadbagh and for whose release a ransom of Rs.10 lakh (USD9,550) was paid; and the 13 year old sister of Muhammad Ali of Shadbagh for whose release Rs.3 lakh (USD2,850) was paid.

27 December During a meeting of Islamabad police officers to review the federal crime rates, the Inspector General of Police said there had only been one reported case of kidnapping in the capital in 2016 compared with seven over the same period in 2015.

30 December Marwa Faizan (3) was kidnapped from her house in Abbottabad. The kidnappers contacted the victim’s family and demanded a ransom of Rs.5 million (USD47,700). The family reported the kidnapping to the police who traced the kidnappers through their telephone calls to the family and raided a house where they found the victim’s body in a shopping bag in the roof of the house. Two suspects, close family relatives, were arrested. The kidnappers had killed the victim when the family failed to deliver the ransom money.

31 December The Karachi police reported that kidnapping for ransom and extortion cases had dropped significantly in the city in 2016. There were 21 kidnapping for ransom cases and 146 extortion incidents recorded in 2016. In 2015, there were 224 recorded incidents of extortion.

31 December The police shot dead two kidnappers as they collected the ransom being paid for Atif Nazeer (15), a student, who was kidnapped in Sargodha in August. The kidnappers had demanded a ransom of Rs.2.5 million (USD23,850). Two more kidnappers escaped from the scene. The police mounted an operation at the payment location. The victim was killed by the kidnappers when the police started shooting.

FAR EAST

General – Piracy

14 December The Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against ships in Asia Information Sharing Centre (ReCAAP ISC) published its monthly report on piracy and robbery against ships in the region. In November, a total of 10 incidents were reported of which six were actual incidents and four were attempted incidents. Of the six actual incidents, five were incidents of armed robbery and one of piracy. Great concern was expressed about the kidnapping of crew from ships while underway in the Sulu-Celebes Sea and off eastern Sabah. In November, one actual incident and four attempted incidents of kidnapping crew were reported. In the period January to November 2016, a total of 77 incidents were reported of which 70 were actual incidents and seven attempted incidents. This is a 60% decrease on the 193 reported incidents over the same period in 2015.

23 December ReCAAP ISC said there had been only one reported case of piracy or robbery in the Straits of Malacca in the first 11 months this year, a vast improvement on the 104 recorded over the same period in 2015 and 48 in 2014. One of the reasons for the decrease in attacks on oil tankers is that both Malaysia and Indonesia have set up special taskforces to tackle piracy in the Straits.

Hong Kong

19 December The Hong Kong police reported that a massive air, sea and land search was ongoing for two mainland China criminals who held Ma Kim-see (67), an architect, hostage for about four hours over the weekend while an accomplice took his wife to withdraw money and buy gold ornaments. It is understood that the two criminals freed Ma and escaped with less than HK100,000 (USD12,900) in cash and silver ornaments. The gang member with Ma’s wife was captured at a police road block. He is reported to have told investigators that the gang swam into Hong Kong from the Yantien area of Shenzen and went ashore at Sha Tau Kok the previous week. They then walked for several hours before taking public transport to Sai Kung where the Mas live. The gang wearing masks climbed into the house located on the up market Bella Vista estate at about 7:45pm on 17 December through a second floor toilet window. They tied up the couple’s domestic help and assaulted Ma before threatening the couple with knives and forcing them into their car. Mrs. Ma was instructed to drive to Tseung Kwan O but shortly after the car drove out of the estate, two of the criminals got out of the car with Ma who was held at knifepoint in bushes on a hillside near A Kung Wan. The third criminal accompanied Mrs. Ma to two goldsmith shops in East Point City where she bought HK260,000 (USD33,550) worth of gold and was also forced to withdraw HK20,000 (USD2,680) from a cashpoint before returning to her car. Meanwhile, the domestic help had managed to free herself and alert the police who stopped the car at around 10:30pm and rescued Mrs. Ma. At about 12:30am on 18 December, Ma was found unhurt on A Kunh Wan Road.

Indonesia

28 December The Navy’s Western Fleet Quick Response Team arrested six suspected pirates operating in the Malacca Straits in the waters off Batam Island. The group were suspected of plotting attacks on tankers on the eastern coast of Peninsula Malaysia and three of the suspects had previous records for piracy. The Navy acted on a tip off and the suspects are alleged to have confessed to planning to attack ships.

Malaysia

9 December Seven armed members of a kidnapping for ransom gang from the southern Philippines attacked and boarded a fishing vessel in the waters off Lahad Datu at about 9:00pm before looting valuables and kidnapping the captain. The gang then headed to Semporna waters and attacked a second vessel before attacking a third vessel and stealing valuables and taking another hostage, also the captain. The gang attempted to attack a fourth vessel that turned out to be the General Operations Force (GOF) Battalion 14’s Tiger Platoon. A shootout ensued during which three of the kidnappers were shot dead, two arrested and one of the hostages rescued. A further member of the kidnapping gang is said to be missing while the seventh member is thought to have fled taking one of the hostages with him. It was later reported that one of the dead gunmen was Abraham Hamid, an Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) leader who led the kidnapping of two Canadians, a Norwegian and a Filipina from a tourist resort in the Philippines in 2015.

14 December Sabah Police Commissioner Datuk Abdul Rashid Harun said information had been received that kidnapping gangs from the southern Philippines and Abu Sayyaf Group militants were still trying to enter Esszone waters. As a result, the dusk to dawn curfew which has been in force for over two years in waters off the districts of Tawau, Semporna, Kunak, Lahad Datu, Kinabatangan, Sandakan and Beluran would be extended until 29 December.

Philippines

12 December A military spokesman said that the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) had released two Indonesian kidnapping victims. The two were part of the seven crew members who were kidnapped from a tugboat, TB Charles, in southern Philippines waters on 20 June 2016. The other five crew members have already been released. The conditions surrounding the release were not disclosed although ASG has only released hostages in the past after the payment of a ransom. Military sources said that ASG still holds about 18 foreign hostages and five Filipinos, many kidnapped from vessels off the southern Philippines. In a separate incident, the army killed 10 ASG fighters and wounded six others in the jungles of Jolo. Three soldiers were killed and 17 wounded in the clashes. On 13 December, Indonesian Foreign Affairs Minister Retno Marsudi released a statement in New Delhi, India, saying the release of the two Indonesian sailors was the result of total diplomacy involving various elements of the government over the past six months.

20 December Fishermen found the fishing vessel, F/B Ramona 2, drifting abandoned in the Celebes Sea off Sulu. The Captain, Engineer and two fishermen, all residents of Tukuran town, Zamboanga del Sur, were missing and the vessel’s radio and GPS equipment had been taken. It was feared that the four Filipino fishermen had been kidnapped by Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) militants and taken to Sulu province.

21 December The US State Department warned US citizens against all non-essential travel to Sulu and “to exercise extreme caution” elsewhere in Mindanao “due to continued terrorist threats, insurgent activities, and kidnappings”. The warning also directed US government personnel “to obtain special authorization from (Manila) Embassy security officials before travelling to Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago”.

25 December According to diplomatic sources, a South Korean businessman in his 50s was kidnapped in October from near his home in Angeles. Two weeks later the victim’s family paid a ransom but he has not been released. It is not known whether he is alive or dead. Some people suspect the local police were involved because a car belonging to a member of a police officer’s family was allegedly used during the kidnapping. It is not clear why the kidnapping had not been revealed earlier. Since 2013, on average 10 Koreans have been kidnapped and killed in the country each year. This year, eight Koreans have been killed, many in contract-style killings.

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