AFRICA

Kenya

5 December Two men were arrested by police on suspicion of kidnapping Christine Chepkurui Rono (27), a student at USIU University, on 30 November at Imara Daima estate after she had made contact with them through Facebook. The kidnappers had posed as businessmen who claimed they were ready to help her start a business. After exchanging messages she agreed to meet the two suspects. They took her to a house in the Githurai Kizito area of Nairobi before demanding a ransom of Sh.10 million (USD98,200). The police traced the kidnappers to the house were the victim was being held and mounted a rescue operation.

Libya

3 December Canadian Frank Poccia (52) spoke to the Canadian Press about his experience while a kidnapping victim along with two Italians. The three men, working on a project at Ghat airport, were kidnapped in September by masked gunmen. He said they were driven into the desert and spent seven weeks confined to small rooms. They were fairly well treated by their kidnappers who, he suspects, were gang members rather than terrorists. He found it hard not being able to contact his wife and children. The day of their release was the most terrifying of their ordeal. They were ordered at gunpoint to lie on the ground and he thought they were about to die. Rather than being murdered, they were driven to the airport and set free. He said he does not know whether a ransom was paid or what role the Italian and Canadian governments played in obtaining their release. He believes Italy took the lead.

7 December Captain Fathi al Shatti, Chairman of Libyan Airlines, was released in Tripoli by his kidnappers after being held for 48 days. Details of his kidnapping and release were not given and a press conference that was due to be held on 8 December was cancelled. There have been no indications why the victim was kidnapped or whether a ransom or some other concession was made to obtain his release. It is not thought that the security forces were involved in an operation to rescue him. Libyan Airlines have been in dispute with its staff who have gone out on strike on several occasions if only briefly. There has also been a bitter two year power struggle over who should be the Chief Executive. It was reported that the victim had escaped an earlier kidnapping attempt in January when one of the would be kidnappers was shot dead.

Mali

24 December Sophie Petronin, a French-Swiss aid worker and doctor in her 60s who has lived in the country for 15 years and runs a non-governmental organisation (NGO) called “Aide a Gao” (Help Gao) that helps children suffering from malnutrition, was kidnapped in Gao, northern Mali, during the afternoon by a group of men who drove her away in a Toyota pickup truck. On 25 December, the French Foreign Ministry confirmed the kidnapping and said French troops had joined the search for the victim. On 28 December, a state prosecutor said that the Islamist militant group al Mourabitoun was suspected of being responsible for the kidnapping although the group had not yet claimed responsibility. Al Mourabitoun is led by Algerian Mokhtar Belmokhtar, a prominent figure in insurgencies across North Africa and the Saharan border region.

Mozambique

13 December At about 7:00pm, the Police of the Republic of Mozambique (PRM) shot dead three would be kidnappers in Maputo in an exchange of fire after the criminals attempted to kidnap an unnamed owner of a commercial establishment. Two of the dead were wanted by the PRM because they had escaped from the Maputo Provincial Penitentiary and the Mabalene prison in Gaza province.

14 December At about 8:45pm, four armed men in two cars attempted to kidnap Mahebub Gulam Rassul, owner of the Tiger Centre, when they surrounded his car on Ho Chi Min-A. While trying to drag Rassul out of his vehicle, the kidnappers were confronted by the police and his security guards. There was an exchange of fire in which one of the kidnappers was wounded and dragged into the kidnappers’ vehicle which sped away abandoning their target. This was the third attempt to kidnap Rassul. The first was in August 2012 outside his house, the second on 15 November 2016 was from near his place of work.

28 December The Police of the Republic of Mozambique (PRM) killed four men allegedly attempting to kidnap the two owners of the Sasseka warehouses in Maputo. A police spokesman said the police were following seven men who were approaching the warehouses when the men became aware of the police presence and opened fire. The police shot back killing four of the men. The other three fled the scene in one of the gang’s two vehicles.

Nigeria

2 December The Bayelsa State Police Command announced a breakthrough relating to the arrest of a gang of kidnappers. The Police Public Relations Officer in the state read out a statement that included:
“Acting on credible intelligence and public support, on 29 November 2016, the IRT intercepted a four man gang of heavily armed kidnappers notorious for terrorising the waterways and kidnapping in Rivers and Bayelsa States, along Azikiwe Road, Port Harcourt, Rivers State, on their way to an operation A gun duel ensued after which three of the kidnappers were fatally wounded while one, aged 30 years and from from Southern Ijaw LGA of Bayelsa State, was arrested. The arrested member of the gang has since been cooperating with the police in their investigation by providing very valuable information on the membership of the gang and their modus of operation. Efforts are in top gear to arrest fleeing members of the gang and recover their cache of arms”.

2 December At the end of its fourth Quarterly Standing Committee Meeting, the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE) issued a communiqué signed by its President, Ms Funke Egbemode, and Secretary, Victoria Ibanga, expressing concern over the upsurge in kidnapping in the country and saying the menace would affect the nation’s image negatively and scare away potential investors. It also noted that foreign investors were needed now as their contribution was crucial to revamping the country’s ailing economy. The Guild urged the government to arrest the rising wave of crimes and criminality to ease the pressure on the citizens and put the nation back on the path to peace.

2 December About eight gunmen stormed the community at Ever Winning Avenue, Isheri Osun area of Lagos State, at around 7:00pm and kidnapped a resident, Iya Mitchell. The kidnappers demanded a ransom of N6 million (USD19,000) from the victim’s husband. On 5 December, the gunmen returned at about 7:30pm and kidnapped two landlords named as Okon, a retired customs officer, and Felix, a dealer in electrical materials. As a result of the two kidnappings, 500 residents left the community area and only 15 residents remained. One of the remaining residents said there was a need for a military presence in the community and urged the government to take action to ensure the release of the victims.

3 December Mrs. Laurentia Laraba Mallam, former Minister of Environment under former President Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, told of her experiences as a kidnapping victim in a newspaper interview. She and her husband, Pius Mallam, were kidnapped on 3 October while travelling along the Bwari-Jere Road and were released on 5 October. She said they ran into a roadblock set up by the kidnappers at around 6:30pm. The kidnappers had stopped a number of cars and many of the occupants had fled into the bush. The kidnappers opened fire on their car hitting it many times. When the car stopped, she, her husband and driver got out uninjured. The kidnappers were only interested in her and her husband and allowed the driver to flee. She had left her footwear in the car but the kidnappers took no notice and the kidnappers made her, her husband and another man walk in the darkness including crossing rivers. They were allowed short rests before being forced to continue walking. After about five hours, they reached a hill where they stopped in the forest. There were four kidnappers aged between 20 and 30 years. They were armed with AK-47 rifles, cutlasses and ropes. They spoke Fulani and Hausa. They did not molest the group of hostages who did what the kidnappers instructed. At around 1:00am, the kidnappers produced the driver’s telephone and told Mrs. Mallam to call someone. She rang one number several times but the person was sleeping and did not answer. She then tried another number, that of one of her in-laws, and the recipient answered immediately. He said he had heard what had happened to them. She instructed her in-law to contact her daughter and tell her to call the number she was calling from. Her daughter called the number and spoke with one of the kidnappers and eventually they were freed. She said the kidnappers did not say whether a ransom was paid but commented that common sense tells you kidnappers do not just release you like that. She concluded by saying the kidnappers were well trained and acted as if they were part of a well organised syndicate.

4 December Rev. Emmanuel Dziggau, immediate past President of the HEKAN Church, one of three pastors kidnapped by gunmen in Kaduna State on 21 March 2016, insisted that the Nigerian Police never played a vital role in their release. He said the kidnappers were paid N4 million (USD12,700) before they regained their freedom after nine days captivity. He added that the ransom was not paid by the government but would not reveal who paid. He was speaking to journalists shortly after his retirement service in Kaduna. He commented: “For the nine days it was like hell for us. No basic daily needs. We slept on the ground on top of leaves, no good drinking water. I took a bath twice in the nine days. The kidnappers demanded initially N150 million (USD476,200) for the three of us but N4 million was eventually paid before we were released and from that money, we were given N4,000 (USD13) each to pay for transport when we were released”.

7 December It was reported that Basil Agha (69), a Lagos based fuel supplier, was kidnapped on 28 October as he was outside his house in Umofor village, Orlu Local Government Area, Imo State, speaking to an electrician. The kidnappers entered the compound and told the victim they were from the State Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Department and ordered him to accompany them. On 30 October, the kidnappers contacted the victim’s brother and demanded a ransom of N50 million (USD158,750). After negotiations, the kidnappers accepted N2.5 million (USD8,000) which the victim’s brother took to a designated location in Onitsha. The kidnappers promised to release the victim the following day but did not do so. Two days later, the family received a second demand for N2 million (USD6,350) which was negotiated down to N100,000 (USD317). Although the family have collected the additional money, they have not heard from the kidnappers again and do not know if the victim is dead or alive.

10 December The product tanker, Sochima, was attacked by pirates 40 nautical miles south of Brass as she sailed to Lagos. The vessel was approached by armed men in a speedboat who attempted to board and take control. The navy security team on board the vessel managed to repel the pirates and wounded some of the gunmen. The pirates abandoned the attack and fled. The Sochima arrived safely in Lagos.

10 December The Police Patrol Team attacked a kidnappers’ hideout in Buzun forest, Ganjuwa Local Government Area, Bauchi State, that resulted in a fierce gun battle lasting for more than one hour. Two suspected kidnappers were fatally wounded and another was shot in the leg and arrested. Two female kidnapping victims were rescued.

13 December Fatai Owoseni, the Lagos State Commissioner of Police, said during the 10th Town Hall Meeting on security organised by the Lagos State Security Trust Fund that 51 kidnapping for ransom cases were recorded in the state during the period December 2015 to November 2016. Over the period December 2014 to November 2015, 25 kidnapping cases were recorded . He added that Ijode in Ikorodu area, accounted for the highest number of cases with 47%. The reason for this was there are many hidden waterways/streams and oil pipelines that run through the area.

14 December The offshore supply vessel, Chilosco, was attacked by pirates about 30 nautical miles south of Brass. The vessel was en route from Onne to Port Harcourt when it was approached by a speedboat containing armed men who attempted to board. The crew and security guards on the vessel repelled the pirates and raised the alarm. The navy escorted the vessel to Port Harcourt. The Chilosco is owned by LATC Marine of Nigeria and is used for crew changes at deep water offshore oilfields and urgent cargo shipments.

16 December Aisha Thelma Alli-Balogun Abiose (28), presenter of the popular comedy show “Stand-Up Nigeria”, was shot dead by kidnappers during the evening while driving in traffic near the Asolo-Majidun road of the Ikorodu expressway in Lagos. She was travelling with her daughter, Fareeda, and a pregnant friend who were both kidnapped. A friend attending Aisha’s funeral said the kidnappers had demanded a ransom for the two victims but did not reveal the total amount. Fareeda and the pregnant woman were released on 19 December after Fareeda’s father had paid an undisclosed ransom to the kidnappers.

16 December Fr. Jude Onyebadi, parish priest of St. Peter and Paul Catholic Church, Issele-Uku Diocese, Delta State, was kidnapped by three gunmen, suspected to be Fulani herdsmen, from his pineapple farm between Ubulu-Uku and Issele-Uku. The kidnappers started negotiations by demanding a ransom of N50 million (USD158,730) but reduced the demand to N20 million (USD63,500).The Director of Communications of the Diocese said church will never pay a ransom and that the church did not encourage the payment of ransoms as that would only encourage an increase the number of kidnappings.

17 December A number of residents were reported to have fled from the White Sand Estate in Ikotun/Igando Local Government Area, Lagos State, following a number of incidents of kidnapping in the area. To date, kidnappers have kidnapped five people and have threatened to kidnap a further 150 residents. Scores of residents stormed the Lagos State Governor’s Office and House of Assembly Complex in Alausa with banners such as “Save Our Soul; Say No to Kidnapping; Isheri People are No Longer Safe” to send messages to Governor Akinwunmi Ambode. Community leaders said that the “bad boys” usually come between 6:30-7:30pm with sophisticated weapons and shooting sporadically.

18 December According to a Lagos Police Command spokesman, Dr. Ajayi was rescued in an operation mounted by the police in the Ibeju-Lekki forest during the night of 16 December. Four kidnappers were killed in the gun battle. Dr. Ajayi was kidnapped from St. Francois Hospital in Onikan, Lagos State, on 9 December. The kidnappers contacted the doctor’s family and demanded a ransom before agreeing to a payment of N10 million (USD31,750). The police mounted an operation when they pretended to be delivering the ransom money.

18 December Soldiers from 144 Battalion in Ukwa West Local Government Area, Aba State, successfully foiled an attempted kidnap on an unnamed Dubai based Nigerian in Aba State. The victim was kidnapped at Okpu Umuobo and was being transported to a village at Umuojima, Osisioma Local Government Area, when the military intercepted them after receiving a tip off. During a gun battle, the kidnappers abandoned their victim and fled leaving two of their gang members dead at the scene.

18 December Jeremiah Uche, a former member of the Caretaker Committee of ONELGA, was kidnapped at around 9:00am from Omuku Town, Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni Local Government Area, Rivers State, when masked gunmen riding motorcycles invaded his home. Two men with him were shot dead. A source said that the kidnappers had contacted the victim’s family and demanded an undisclosed ransom.

19 December It was reported that Chief Avura Awheme, a Special Assistant on Community Development to Delta State Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, was kidnapped by gunmen over one week ago while returning from a trip to discuss a property matter at Olomoro. A community source said that the kidnappers had contacted the family and demanded a ransom of N30 million (USD95,200) but had agreed a payment of N5 million (USD15,900). The family paid the agreed amount on 14 December but the victim had not yet been released.

19 December Hon. Adoyi Omale, former council Chairman of Ogbadibo Local Government Area, Benue State, revealed that his family had paid N2 million (USD6,350) in ransom for his release. He had been kidnapped by gunmen dressed in military uniform at Ajackuta, Kogi State, at 2:00pm on 12 December while travelling to his country home at Owukpa, Benue State. The four other people in his car were allowed to go free. He was released after the payment on 15 December. He said the experience was gruesome as he went without food and water for four days and walked 100 kilometres through thick forest.

20 December Governor Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos State disclosed that the state government is recruiting military trained personnel as guards for primary and secondary schools in the state to strengthen security. In addition, it has been estimated that about 5,000 youths from 57 Local Governments and Local Council Development Areas had been trained in military formations and tactics to boost security in the state.

20 December Comfort Alaba, a customs officer, was kidnapped at about 8:00pm by two armed men who had followed her car, attacked her while she was stopped outside an eatery in Lagos with her two daughters. The two girls escaped but the victim was forced from her car and into the kidnappers’ vehicle which sped away.

21 December Grace Oghene Edgeware, a National Youth Service Corps member and graduate in Accountancy from Delta State Polytechnic. Ozoro, and two sisters who were travelling in a “God is Good Motors” bus were kidnapped by suspected Fulani herdsmen in Kwali Area Council of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, when their bus was stopped and robbed. The kidnappers contacted the families of the victims and demanded ransoms of N10 million (USD31,750) for Grace and N5 million (USD15,875) for the two sisters. The two sisters were released on 25 December. The circumstances surrounding their release were not disclosed.

24 December Mrs. Mercy Ugboma, wife of a People’s Democratic Party chieftain in Asaba, was kidnapped by six men as she made her way to church at Okwa in the state capital. The kidnappers took her away in her jeep. They later contacted the victim’s family and demanded a ransom of N25 million (USD79,400). The victim’s husband confirmed the kidnap and pleaded for the kidnappers to release his wife as the family did not have that sort of money to pay the ransom.

25 December A Katsina State Police Command spokesman said that a 23 year old man had been arrested along with an accomplice in connection with the kidnapping of his 3 year old nephew. The victim was found by police drugged with a “cough mixture” in a hotel in Katsina at about 3:00am on 23 December. The kidnappers had demanded a ransom of N4 million (USD12,700).

28 December Lagos State Police Command announced that Suleiman Seidu (33), the leader of a kidnapping for ransom gang, had been arrested by members of the state Rapid Response Squad (RRS) on 23 December in the Owode area of Ogun State while planning to kidnap the 2 year old son of a landlord and dealer in electrical appliances. A RRS policewoman was planted as a decoy to infiltrate the gang to feed back information to enable the force to make an arrest. She had been given the task by Seidu to take care of gang members and the child after he was kidnapped. She spent over two weeks with the gang before the RRS mounted their arrest operation. Seidu admitted that he had been monitoring the child’s movements for two weeks and had noticed that the driver taking him to school would get out of the car to lock the residence gates as there was no automatic system. The plan was to kidnap the boy from the car as the driver was closing the gates and escape on a motorcycle. Seidu admitted he was going to demand a ransom of N10 million (USD31,750) but would have been willing to reduce it to N3 million (USD9,525) if the boy’s father could not pay.

30 December Alhaji Ismaila Zubairu, a Kano based businessman in his sixties, was kidnapped at around 8:15pm in Okene when he was followed by the kidnappers as he returned to his house from his mother’s house. The kidnappers have not yet made contact with the family.

29 December A statement released by Kano State Police Command said that there were 43 cases of kidnapping in the state between January and December this year and 119 suspected kidnappers had been arrested. Police rescued 27 kidnapping victims and N2.75 million (USD8,750) had been recovered from suspected kidnappers. The statement added that there had been a decline in kidnapping when compared to previous years.

31 December Alhaji Isah Achuja, a monarch who is Ohi of Ajaokuta in Kogi State, was kidnapped by armed men as he was on his way home from Lokoja. His vehicle was intercepted by gunmen on the Lokoja-Ajaokuta road and he was forced out at gunpoint. An aide and the driver of the victim narrowly avoided being shot when the kidnappers opened fire. A source said the kidnappers had contacted the victim’s family and had demanded a ransom of N20 million (USD63,500).

South Africa

4 December Mustapha Goolam (38), who is said to own more than four businesses on the Cape Flats and is a committee member of the Bangladesh Indian Pakistani Committee (BIP), was kidnapped from outside his shop, Food Town, in Lotus River as he was locking up at about 9:00pm. Witnesses reported that two men in a Toyota Corolla snatched the father of three and sped off. The victim tried to fight off the kidnappers and dropped his cellphone during the scuffle. The kidnappers twice contacted the family initially demanding a ransom of R11 million (USD783,500) before reducing their demand to R10 million (USD712,250). A private investigator assisted the family along with a police special anti-kidnapping unit. The police traced the victim to a house in Khayelitsha before mounting an operation at around 6:00pm on 6 December during which the victim was rescued and three suspects, two Pakistani nationals and a South African, were arrested. The victim was found handcuffed, badly bruised and hungry in a room. The Cluster Chairperson of the Mitchells Plain Community Policing Forum, Hanif Loonat, said he believed the kidnappers were part of a syndicate operated by businessmen of a “particular” nationality. On 20 December, five men including a police reservist appeared in court on suspicion of being part of the gang that allegedly kidnapped the victim.

28 December Naushad Deshmukh (46), owner of Khan’s clothing store in Athlone, who was allegedly kidnapped from outside his store by five armed men on 1 November, appeared unexpectedly at a house in Thornton. According to police sources, he was dropped off and went and knocked on the door of the house. It is rumoured that, a few days after the kidnapping, the victim called his family and said the kidnappers were demanding R338 million (USD24 million) for his release. A police spokesman said: “The circumstances surrounding his disappearance are under police investigation and the finer aspects thereof will not be disclosed”. Questions are being raised as to whether he really was kidnapped after his family apparently closed ranks and stopped co-operating with police.

Sudan

20 December The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) announced that three of its workers, Sarun Pradhan, Ramesh Karki, both Nepalese, and Moussa Omer Moussa Mohammed, a Sudanese, who had been kidnapped in western Darfur on 27 November had been released. The circumstances surrounding their release were not disclosed.

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