ASIA

Afghanistan

22 February Ahmadullah, son of Hamidullah, was released in Syedabad district, Maidan Wardak province, during an operation mounted by intelligence agents. A ransom of USD1 million had been demanded for his release. No further details were given by the National Directorate of Security.

India

2 February Rajatpal Singh (19) was kidnapped from his guest paying accommodation in Chandigarh by three men, one of whom had befriended the victim two months earlier. The kidnappers demanded a ransom of Rs.2 crore (USD321,000). The victim managed to escape on 3 February and the police arrested three suspects on 7 February.

19 February Aatish Jain (13), son of a Meerut based businessman, Mayank Jain, was kidnapped while returning to his home in TP Nagar area, Noida, Uttar Pradesh. On 23 February, the family were contacted with a ransom demand of Rs.2 crore (USD321,000). The original demand was negotiated down to Rs.23 lakh (USD37,000) that the family paid. The police mounted a rescue operation after the payment, rescued the victim, arrested three suspects, including the businessman’s nephew, and recovered the ransom money.

22 February Police Constable Ravinder Dhaka (28) of Delhi Police, was kidnapped from outside his house in Chandi Nagar, Baghpat district, Uttar Pradesh. The victim’s older brother reported the incident to the police and said that an hour after the kidnapping he had been contacted with a ransom demand of Rs.20 lakh (USD32,100). He added that the call was made from the victim’s cell phone.

Pakistan

7 February The Czech weekly Respekt magazine claimed in an article that the Czech Government paid a USD6 million ransom to obtain the release of female Czech students Hana Humpalova and Antonie Chrastecka. The couple were kidnapped by armed men in March 2013 in Balochistan Province near the borders with Afghanistan and Iran. The Czech Government announced the women’s release and return to Prague on 28 March 2015. The article also claimed that negotiations with the kidnappers to agree the payment of a ransom were carried out by the Czech State’s Security Council. A Czech Government spokesman is quoted as saying Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka “will not be commenting on this report”.

12 February Sayed Fazalullah Wahidi, a former governor of Afghanistan’s Herat province and close friend of former Afghan President Hamid Khazi, was kidnapped by unidentified gunmen in Islamabad. The former governor was in Islamabad with his family to obtain a visa to travel to the UK. A police official said the governor was staying in a guest house in a high security area that houses politicians, bureaucrats and expatriates. He went with his grandson to a nearby market when he was kidnapped. The kidnappers left the grandson who reported the incident to the police. The Afghan Government expressed serious concern and urged the Pakistani authorities to recover the victim immediately. On 26 February, the police rescued the victim and arrested three suspected kidnappers in an operation in the Swabi district of Peshawar.

FAR EAST

Malaysia

20 February The United Kingdom joined Australia and New Zealand in warning citizens against travel to coastal islands in Sabah, eastern Malaysia, citing high threats to foreigners from kidnapping and criminality. The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office raised the terrorism level for the islands to “high” from “general” and advised against all but essential travel.

25 February Four Singaporeans, one man and three women, were arrested by police in Singapore on suspicion of being involved in the kidnapping and attempted extortion of a 28 year old Singapore man in Penang on 21 February. The victim and his 27 year old brother had travelled on business to Penang. The victim’s fiancé had received a call demanding a ransom of USD250,000 for the release of the two brothers. She reported the matter to the police. On 24 February, the Malaysian police raided a hotel in Penang, rescued the two brothers and arrested four Malaysian men. The police said no ransom had been paid.

Philippines

7 February The Commander of the Joint Task Group Sulu said Ace Jay Garban (3), the grandson of Pitogo Mayor Richard Garban, had been released by his kidnappers. The boy was found wandering on his own in Buanza village, Indanan town, by a concerned citizen and taken to a military camp in Jolo, Sulu. The victim was kidnapped along with a bakery worker, Ledegie Tomarong (17), and his sister, Zynielle (2), by members of the Abu Sayyaf Group on 31 March 2015 in Poblacion, Pitogo town, Zamboanga del Sur. The kidnappers used the three victims as a human shield after they had failed to kidnap their target, a businesswoman. A fisherman found the body of Zynielle floating near Pitogo’s port a few days after the kidnapping. A month later, the kidnappers sent text messages to the families demanding a ransom of P60 million (USD1.34 million). The bakery worker escaped from the kidnappers during a battle between the militants and military in July 2015. It was not disclosed if a ransom had been paid for the toddler’s release.

12 February The Philippine Government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) agreed to continue until 2017 the joint bodies which help to maintain peace between the two sides. The Ad Hoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG) was formally organised in 2005 to serve as a coordinating body between the police, the military and the MILF on law enforcement operations near or within the vicinity of known MILF-controlled areas.

13 February Teresita Ang See, founding chair of the Movement for the Restoration of Peace and Order (MRPO), said the Philippine National Police Anti-Kidnapping Group (PNP-AKG) had investigated 30 cases of kidnapping for ransom since December 2015. She added: “Fortunately the AKG is still focused on anti-kidnapping campaign and we encourage the victims to cooperate and the business sector – which is very vulnerable – to be very vigilant in these times”. She also said that in January, three kidnappings were recorded by MRPO – one in Metro Manila and two in Tartac – and drew police attention to the problem of kidnapping reportedly being run by inmates at the New Bilibid Prisons in Muntinlupa. Anti-crime advocates believe crime syndicates may be taking advantage of a police force stretched thin due to election duties. The elections are due on 9 May 2016.

14 February Three fishermen, Ronnie Lanctikse Bancale, Winnie Pandiag and Romeo Rubio, were kidnapped off the Basilan Strait when going to the assistance of another fishing boat whose occupants pretended to have suffered engine problems. Six gunmen were on the “stricken” boat and took the three men hostage at gunpoint. They were taken to a secluded area of Sulu. On 20 February, Pandiag and Rubio were released but the kidnappers kept their employer, Bancale. The kidnappers contacted Bencale’s wife and demanded a ransom of P1 million (USD22,350) for her husband’s release. Authorities suspect the kidnappers to be members of a small group connected to al Qaeda linked Abu Sayyaf militants group

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20 February During a police operation, Jun Nazir, the suspected leader of a Lanao del Sur based kidnapping for ransom gang, was killed and three other members arrested. In the same operation, Josh Dy (7), son of businessman, Henry Dy, and his nanny, Dianara Bojo (16), who had been kidnapped on 12 February in Marawi City, were rescued. The police had mounted an observation operation on the payment of the ransom by the boy’s parents to the kidnappers and had then followed them back to their hideout before mounting the rescue operation. Among those arrested, was Michelle Awitin Mercedes, an aunt of Josh Dy. The police recovered P500,000 (USD11,200) from the gang.

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