MIDDLE EAST

Iraq

4 February ISIS terrorists executed Paul Jacob, a priest, who had been kidnapped eight months earlier in Mosul where he was the parish priest. After kidnapping the priest, the terrorists blew up his church.

Syria

1 February A video was released by Islamic State allegedly to show the beheading of Japanese journalist Kenji Goto. In a previous video, Islamic State had threatened to kill Mr. Goto unless Sajida al Rishawa, a prisoner in Jordan who received a death sentence for her part in hotel bombings in Amman in 2005, was released. The deadline for her release passed on 29 January. Jordan had expressed willingness to release the prisoner in exchange for First Lieutenant Muath al Kasasbeth, a pilot who was captured after his fighter crashed near Raqqa on 24 December, but said it needed Proof of Life (POL) first. No confirmation of POL was received from the Islamic State.

3 February A video posted online by ISIS appeared to show the Jordanian Air Force pilot, First Lieutenant Muath al Kasasbeth, being burned alive in a cage the BBC reported. The video could not immediately be verified.

4 February The Huffington Post published a list of the known foreign hostages being held by ISIS:

John Cantlie: A British photo journalist who has appeared in several Islamic State propaganda videos apparently filmed in Kobani and the Iraqi city of Mosul. He was kidnapped in November 2012 along with the American journalist, James Foley, who was beheaded in August 2014.

Father Paolo Dall’oglio: An Italian Jesuit priest who went missing in July 2013 after travelling to meet Islamic militants in Raqqa.

Samir Kassab: A Lebanese cameraman for satellite channel Sky News Arabia who was kidnapped on 15 October 2014 while working near Aleppo.

Ishak Mokhtar: A Mauritanian reporter for Sky News Arabia who was kidnapped near Aleppo on 15 October 2014.

Unidentified American Woman: She was captured last year while working for an aid group. US officials have asked that she is not named out of fears for her safety.

Three workers for the International Red Cross: The three were kidnapped near Saraqeb, Idlib province, in October 2013. The Red Cross has declined to identify the three for fears for their safety.

Seven Lebanese soldiers: Kidnapped in August 2014 in the Lebanese border town of Arsal during a cross border raid by Islamist militants.

4 February Didier Francois (53), a French journalist who was released in April 2014 along with three other French journalists after being held for almost one year by ISIS, talked about his experience during an interview with CNN, He said the British militants know as The Beatles, were the worst of their captors. The British militants were more “extreme” and, although they gave hostages better food, the beatings were harsher. He also mentioned “Jihadi John” shown in a number of videos beheading hostages. He commented: “You can see on the videos he is not somebody you would like to have to deal with”. He revealed that the ISIS militants did not even have the Quran adding that there was never any discussion about the texts of the Quran in the ISIS camp, because the discussions were political, not religious. He mentioned being subjected to numerous mock executions during his ten months in captivity. He said conditions were always “rough and sometimes violent” The French government denied paying a ransom of USD18 million to end the ten months captivity of M. Francois and three other journalists, but many believe the cash was paid through middlemen, including private companies and Turkish secret agents.

5 February Marc and Debra Tice, working with Reporters Without Borders, launched a campaign to raise awareness of the plight of Austin Tice, an American journalist, and to push for changes to US hostage policies. Austin Tice disappeared near Damascus in August 2012. His parents said they have been assured he is alive and not held by Islamic State but would not elaborate. The victim’s satellite phone, which he used to communicate with his editors at McClatchy and The Washington Post and his parents in Houston, last transmitted on 13 August 2012. The Tices think he was kidnapped the following day. The only news of him since was a video posted on YouTube on 26 September 2012 showing an obviously distraught Tice, blindfolded, being led up a hillside by his kidnappers. The video breaks off as he is heard speaking fractured Arabic and then saying: “Jesus. Oh, Jesus”.

7 February CNN reported a Middle East security source as saying that members of a group of the Islamic State (IS or ISIS) based in north-eastern Syria had been drawing up plans since the middle of 2014 to kidnap Westerners and others in neighbouring countries. The source said the group want to go into countries such as Lebanon and Jordan and bring back hostages to Syria so they can be used in propaganda videos.

7 February Islamic State said that American aid worker, Kayler Mueller (29), had been killed during a Jordanian air strike. According to an American Muslim activist, Mauri Saalakhan, she had been condemned to death by IS last year. Initially she had been given a “life sentence” in retaliation for the jailing in Texas of a Pakistani woman. Kayler was kidnapped in northern Syria in 2013. On 12 July 2014, IS told her family that she would be executed in 30 days if Pakistani neuroscientist, Aafia Siddiqui, was not released or if the family did not pay a ransom of 5 million euros (USD6.6 million). Saalakhan leads a US campaign to free the Pakistani woman.

13 February In comments made in an article for ISIL’s online propaganda magazine, the British journalist, John Cantlie (44), said it was time for his loved ones to “let him go” and “get on with their lives”. The message appeared to be urging his family to give up on their publicity campaign and behind the scenes efforts to get him freed. He was kidnapped in November 2012 while reporting on the civil war. Mr. Cantlie, who has appeared in a series of propaganda videos for ISIL, said during his most recent video that it would be “the last film in this series” raising fears of an imminent threat to his life.

28 February According to a report in al Akhbar newspaper, two Orthodox bishops, Yohanna Ibrahim and Boulos Yaziji, are doing well and are in a safe area. They were kidnapped in April 2013. For reasons of secrecy and to protect them from the surrounding fighting and shelling the IS militants continually change their location and their present whereabouts is not known.

Yemen

10 February Julia Rouf Eva, a doctor from Tajikistan, was released following lengthy negotiations in Marib governorate. She was kidnapped on 29 October 2014 from in front of the military hospital in Marib city where she was working in the gynaecology department. Ali al Manifi, a sheikh from Marib’s Murad tribe, said negotiations began in January and took about six weeks. He added that the kidnappers at first demanded a ransom of YR45 million (USD209,000) but, following negotiations, reduced this to YR15 million (USD70,000). The kidnappers were from several tribes in Marib. A journalist, who was also involved in the negotiations, confirmed that a ransom was paid but refused to disclose the amount or say who had paid.

15 February The so-called “Southern Popular Resistance”, a shadowy group from southern Lahij province, said it had “detained” Colonel Radwan al Zamari, commander of the local army camp, and ten soldiers while they were manning a checkpoint in al Malah district. The group added that they would only free the colonel and the soldiers when the army evacuated the camp.

24 February A 30 year old French woman who was a consultant to Yemen’s Social Fund for Development, was kidnapped along with her Yemeni driver in Sana’a. Unidentified gunmen intercepted the vehicle she was travelling on 45th Street. France closed its embassy in Sana’a on 13 February and urged all French nationals to leave the country. The United Kingdom and US have also closed their embassies citing concerns over security. Safer Yemen, a local security organisation, reported that more than 76 foreign nationals had been kidnapped between 2010 and 2014. Europeans made up about 33% of the victims and nearly 40% of the incidents occurred in Sana’a.

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