SECURITY UPDATE – APRIL 2014
21 April According to the news website, Vocativ, one of the most dangerous countries for kidnapping is Mexico and the number of annual incidents has been on the rise for the past decade. The most common type of kidnapping in Mexico is express kidnapping. Violent attacks have also been reported and a high number of deaths have occurred during kidnapping incidents. Another dangerous country is India where kidnapping is growing at the fastest rate of any country and most incidents are motivated by money. Kidnapping is more prevalent in poorer regions of the country where criminal elements use the crime to supplement their incomes. Other countries that are listed include Venezuela, Lebanon and the Philippines.
26 April In an audio interview, the leader of al Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri, called on Muslims to kidnap westerners, particularly Americans, who could then be exchanged for jailed jihadists. Reuters were unable to verify the authenticity of the tape but the voice resembled that of al-Zawahiri.
5 April Two Italian priests, Giampaolo Marta and Gianantonio Allegri, and a Canadian nun, Gilberte Bissier (70s), were kidnapped by suspected Boko Haram gunmen in the small parish of Tchere which is about 40 miles from the corner of northern Nigeria that serves as a base for the Islamist rebel group. According to local residents, the kidnapping happened around midnight when a group of armed men on motorcycles arrived at the homes of the priests and nun, broke in and fled with their victims in a stolen jeep. Kidnapping of westerners has become common in this remote and sparsely populated region where the borders between Cameroon and Nigeria are porous.
27 April The US Department of State issued a travel warning to US citizens highlighting the risk of travel to Cameroon and cautioned them to avoid all travel to the Far North Region of the country. The warning explained that Boko Haram, and an affiliated group, Ansaru, are active in the Far North and have actively targeted foreign expatriates resident in Cameroon as well as tourists. Eleven expatriates have been kidnapped since 2013. Travel Warnings are also in place for countries bordering Cameroon on the west, north and east: Nigeria, Chad and the Central African Republic.
5 April The Egyptian authorities warned its citizens against travelling to Libya to seek better living conditions and employment opportunities. This was after 150 Egyptian drivers were kidnapped by Libyan gunmen while travelling back to Egypt. The kidnapping came days after Libyan Salama Mohamed Salama had been sentenced to 25 years in prison in Egypt for smuggling weapons across the Libyan-Egyptian border.
11 April Judge Kamel al-Bahri, Deputy Director of the Institute of Magistrates, was released after being kidnapped the previous day by 13 armed men who entered his office and forced him into a vehicle before driving away.
15 April Fawaz al-Eitan, Jordanian Ambassador to Libya, was kidnapped when gunmen shot and wounded his driver and snatched the Ambassador from a street in Tripoli. The kidnappers later demanded the release of Mohamed Dersi, a Libyan Islamist who was jailed for life in 2007 for plotting to blow up the main airport in Jordan. Royal Jordanian Airlines suspended flights to Tripoli as a result of the kidnapping. Kidnappings have become common in the country with foreign officials often the target, Since the start of 2014, five Egyptian diplomats, a Tunisian diplomat and a South Korean trade official have been kidnapped.
17 April Aroussi Gantassi, a Tunisian diplomat who works as an adviser at the Tunisian Embassy, was kidnapped in Tripoli according to the Libyan Foreign Ministry. The circumstances surrounding the kidnapping were not immediately available.
21 April A video published on a social media site showed Mohammed Bel Sheikh, a Tunisian diplomat, crying and pleading with the Tunisian government to negotiate with his kidnappers. The diplomat was kidnapped on 21 March in Tripoli. At the end of the video, an Islamist group called Shabab al-Tawhid (Youth of Unification) added a message to the Tunisian government: “As you imprison ours we will imprison yours. As you kill ours, we will kill yours”.
13 April Mauritania’s news agency, ANI, said that a video of Mourad Ghassas, one of three remaining Algerian diplomats being held hostage by al Qaeda linked Islamists since April 2012, had been sent to the agency by the Islamist group. Ghassa says in the video that he and his colleagues are in good health and he was speaking on 9 April. He called on the Algerian government to negotiate with the kidnappers. Seven Algerians were kidnapped in the north Mali town of Gao in April 2012. Three were released, one was reported executed and the last Proof of Life was in a video released to the media in January 2013. ANI said it received the video from Al-Mourabitoun, the group created in 2013 when MUJWA, the group that kidnapped the Algerians, and fighters led by veteran Sahara Islamist, Mokhtar Belmokhtar, merged.
17 April In a joint statement from the Presidents of France and Mali, it was revealed that French troops had freed five local aid workers, including four members of the International Committee of the Red Cross, who were kidnapped in February. The victims were freed near Timbuktu but it was not made clear who was responsible for the kidnapping. The statement referred to a “terrorist group”.
22 April The al Qaeda linked Islamist group, the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO), announced the death of French kidnapping victim Gilberto Rodriguez Leal (62). He had been kidnapped on 20 November 2012 near Kayes in western Mali while driving a camper van from Mauritania. A MUJAO spokesman told Agence France Presse by telephone “he is dead because France is our enemy”.
1 April The Police of the Republic of Mozambique (PRM) reported that they had arrested four alleged kidnappers in connection with the kidnapping of an unnamed 17 year old girl in Matola on 18 March. The victim was seized and thrown into a Toyota Corolla and driven to a safe house near the Mozal aluminium smelter. She was held for six days while the kidnappers negotiated a ransom with her parents. She was released after an undisclosed ransom was paid. The PRM are looking for a further two members of the gang that they said is highly dangerous.
8 April A nine year old girl, Leia Andrade, was kidnapped from her home in Chimolo, Manica, central Mozambique. A woman came to her house around 15:00 claiming to be the mother of one of the victim’s school friends. The kidnappers made an initial demand by text message to the telephone of her father with a demand of 200,000 Meticais (USD6,600). Her father negotiated a settlement of Meticais 100,000 (USD3,300) and the victim was released at around 20:00 the same day..
10 April A Portuguese businessman, believed to be in his seventies and involved in the construction industry, was reportedly kidnapped in Matola, Maputo. He was driving from his residence to his daughter’s house when approached by hooded men armed with pistols. A number of witnesses saw the kidnapping and are helping the police trace the kidnappers. A family source said that the victim had been released on 1 May.
12 April Moniz Carsane aka Manish Cantilal, the Hindu owner of a shop located on Filipe Samuel Magaia Avenue, Maputo, was arrested on suspicion of being the mastermind behind a series of kidnappings, two in 2011 and two earlier this year, targeting business people of Asian origin. According to the police, Carsane is suspected of ordering the kidnapping of four people and demanding large ransoms for their release. He is also said to have lived a jet set lifestyle and have close ties with the Frelimo-led government.
12 April It was reported that a Mozambican businessman, Davda Umedkumar Mohanlal (58), had been kidnapped by four men in Macia, Gaza province. The victim is the managing partner of an Engen service station in Macia. The Police of the Republic of Mozambique (PRM) are refusing to comment on the incident but it is understood that the victim was kidnapped at around 10:00pm. It has been reported that the kidnappers contacted the family warning them not to involve the PRM and demanding that the ransom be paid in Maputo. If the report is confirmed, it will be the third kidnapping in less than two weeks. The kidnappers demanded 10 million Meticais (USD323,000) for his release. He was released about one week after his kidnapping but both the victim and his family refused to divulge any information about his release. The kidnappers had threatened to kill the victim if the family contacted the police or failed to pay the ransom.
23 April The authorities said they had recorded 44 kidnapping for ransom cases in the country in 2013. Unofficial sources claim that the number is easily double this as many families were too afraid to involve the police. In 2013 a total of 17 people were given jail sentences for kidnapping. Several of those convicted were policemen or had links to the security forces. However, those jailed were “foot soldiers” and there has been little progress in capturing the leaders of kidnapping gangs.
28 April Julian (8), the son of an officer with the Criminal Investigation Police (PIC) was kidnapped at around 1:00pm as he played with other youngsters near his residence in Nampula. Unconfirmed reports say that the kidnappers have made a ransom demand of 200,000 Meticais (USD6,600). Police sources claimed that the victim’s mother is blackmailing his father.
3 April Ebikeme Clark, son of Ijaw national leader and former Federal commissioner for Information, Chief Edwin Kiagbodo Clark, was kidnapped while inspecting the site of his father’s proposed University of Technology in Kiagbodo, Burutu Local Government Area, Delta State. The kidnappers escaped with the victim in a speedboat through the Kiagbodo River. It was subsequently reported that the kidnappers had contacted the victim’s family and made a ransom demand of N50 million (USD322,600). On 5 April the police said that three men had been arrested in connection with the kidnapping and they were Ijaw kinsmen of the victim. The victim was released after being held for three days. In a statement released by the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) and signed by Jomo Gbomo, the group alleged that the Delta State government paid a ransom of N500 million (USD3.25 million) and the kidnapping was staged by the victim with the backing of his father. Chief Ebikeme Clark, flanked by his son, said at a press conference that he did not pay a dime and the claims by MEND were false and malicious. The police later paraded the suspected kidnappers who, it was claimed, had also admitted to the kidnapping of Madame Rose at Warri for whom a ransom of N1.8 million (USD11,600) was paid.
5 April According to family sources, Stephen Marama, a Borno governorship candidate in 1979, was kidnapped while travelling back from his country home at Marama, Hawul Local Government Area, to Maiduguri, the Borno State capital. On 8 April the kidnappers contacted the victim’s family warning them against involving the security forces as they would kill the victim. They also demanded to be put in contact with Kashim Shettima, Governor of Borno State, or Senator Ali Ndume.
9 April Tunde Ogunshakin, Commissioner of Police in Rivers State, said at a press conference in Port Harcourt that the spate of kidnappings in the State had reduced. He added that most of the kidnappers had “either been arrested or dispatched in the process of exchanging fire with the police”. He commented that the kidnappers had constructed their hideouts and detention camps, where they kept hostages, along the waterfronts. The gangs would come into town, kidnap their victims and take them to the waterfront hideouts. Several waterfronts are now patrolled by the police and the kidnappers have nowhere to hide.
15 April The Governor of Borno State said that Islamic Militants, thought to be part of Boko Haram (the name means “Western education forbidden”), had kidnapped 234 female students (aged between 16 and 18 years) from the Government Girls Secondary School in the north eastern town of Chibok late in the evening of 14th April. As many as 43 of the girls managed to escape but up to 191 were still being held in the Sambisa Forest on 28 April. A civil society group was quoted as stating that villagers reported scores of the kidnapped girls and young women were being forced to marry Islamic extremists.
16 April A University of Johannesburg student, who was kidnapped from the university’s Soweto campus on 15 April, was found walking in fields unharmed by university security guards. The victim’s parents said that the kidnappers had demanded R3 million (USD285,000) for his release but later dropped their demand to R1 million (USD95,000) and then R500,000 (USD47,500) when they said they did not have the money. They said they had not paid a ransom.
18 April An army spokesman said that armed militants had killed two security staff and kidnapped a Chinese, an Algerian and a Sudanese oil worker during an attack on an oil field in West Kordofan state. The main rebel group active in the area, the Justice and Equality Movement, denied any involvement in the incident. On 20 April the Chinese Embassy in Sudan stated that two Chinese engineers were kidnapped in the incident. The details of the incident were updated to eight people being kidnapped including three foreigners.
Information courtesy of Griffin Underwriting