Ransom payments to al Qaeda affiliates
29 July According to a report published in The New York Times, kidnapping Europeans for ransom has become a global business for al Qaeda bankrolling its operations across the world. The report was produced by a journalist working for the newspaper who used interviews with former hostages, negotiators, diplomats and government officials in 10 countries in Europe, Africa and the Middle East as well as news releases and statements issued by the United States Treasury Department. The journalist also had access to thousands of pages of internal al Qaeda documents found while on assignment for the Associated Press in northern Mali in 2013. While European governments deny paying ransoms, an investigation found that al Qaeda and its affiliates have received at least USD125 million in ransom payments since 2008. USD66 million of this figure was paid in 2013. A breakdown of ransom payments shows that al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) has received USD91.5 million, al Shabab USD5.1 million and al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) USD29.9 million. Whereas in 2003 al Qaeda received about USD200,000 per hostage, now the amount has risen to USD10 million per hostage. Only a handful of countries led by the United States and Great Britain have resisted paying ransoms although both countries have negotiated with extremist groups. The payments were made almost exclusively by European governments who channelled money through a network of proxies, sometimes concealing it as “development aid”. Although al Qaeda threaten to kill their victims, a review of known cases indicated that only a small percentage of hostages have been executed in the last five years in marked contrast to ten years ago.
23 July “Tout sur l’Algerie” reported that residents of the Tizi Ouzou town of Beni Zmenzar held a rally to demand the release of Amar Gada (67) who was kidnapped by terrorists on 14 July. Around 80 kidnapping cases have been registered in the province since 2005. Many hostages have been freed unharmed as a result of various initiatives by residents.
15 July State Radio announced that 10 heavily armed men, suspected to be members of Boko Haram, had crossed the border from Bono State, Nigeria, ransacked the house of Bieshair Mohamad, an influential Moslem spiritual leader, in Limani and kidnapped two of his sons, Bieshair Hashimir and Bieshair Cavaye Yegue. This is the first report of kidnapping of Cameroonians by Boko Haram.
27 July According to local sources, hundreds of Boko Haram militants wearing Cameroonian army uniforms attacked Kolofata, a town in the Far North Region and 5 kms from the Nigerian border. The militants kidnapped about 22 people including the wife of the country’s Vice Prime Minister, Amadou Ali, and the religious leader, the Sultan of Kolofata, Seiny Boukar Lamine, his wife and their five children. The attackers also targeted the hospital apparently searching for two Western citizens who were working there but were fortunately on holiday. At least 18 civilians and members of the security forces were killed during the attack. The location of the kidnap victims is still unknown.
3 July Two cousins, named as Uday (18) and Sufyan (19), were kidnapped while travelling from Janzour to Gargarsh, west of Tripoli, to visit their ailing grandmother. On 6 July the family received a telephone call from the kidnappers demanding a ransom of 2 million Libyan dinars (USD1.6 million). On 12 July the family received a further call in which the ransom demand had been reduced to 500,000 Libyan dinars (USD406,000). On 20 July, the mother of Safyan who lives in Cairo received the most recent call in which she heard her son crying while being tortured. This case is another example of the strength of rogue militias and the weakness of the central caretaker government. Kidnapping for ransom has become the norm since October 2011.
6 July Officials said that three Europeans working for an Italian construction company had been kidnapped in the west of the country. The Italian Foreign Ministry confirmed that Marco Vallisa (53), a construction drilling specialist, had been kidnapped at Zuwara near the Tunisian border. A Libyan security official said the other two men were from Bosnia and Macedonia. A Libyan man suspected of being involved in the kidnappings was arrested. Armed militias have gained influence over the country and are often blamed for kidnappings either for ransom or political gain.
18 July Martin Galea, a Maltese citizen, was kidnapped on the outskirts of Tripoli while being driven to work in the morning. Mr. Galea, a former army Captain worked as a health and safety officer with a gas and exploration company. No ransom demand has been received but sources said that it is not unusual to wait up to two weeks before a ransom demand is made. This was the case of the former director general of Afriquiya Airways who was kidnapped over a week ago and his family heard nothing until two days ago when the kidnappers contacted them with a demand for two million dinars (USD1.62 million).
21 July The headless body of a Filipino construction worker was found in Benghazi. The Filipino was travelling in a vehicle on 15 July with two fellow workers, a Libyan and a Pakistani, when the vehicle was stopped at a checkpoint. The other two were allowed to go as they were Moslems. Despite the fact that the kidnappers were negotiating the victim’s release with the company that employed him, he was killed.
2 July Ayoob Satar, the older brother of Nini Satar, was shot dead by two men on a motorbike as he exited a bank in Karachi, Pakistan, after collecting the equivalent of USD5,000 in local currency. At the time of his murder, Ayoob was on probation but had been special permission to visit his children in Pakistan eight months earlier. Both Ayoob and Nini Satar were suspected of organising kidnappings in Mozambique from their prison cells. Nini recently told the media he was helping the police locate and identify the real kidnappers. The police later rejected his claim and said he was behind the kidnappings.
13 July An unnamed citizen of Pakistani origin was kidnapped at around 8:00pm in Avenida Filipe Samuel Magaia, Maputo. The victim was travelling in a car when it was blocked by an unspecified number of armed individuals. The police speculated that the incident might be connected with the settling of an account between rival Pakistani gangs after the murder of Imbran Hussain on 18 June in Maputo.
22 July According to eye witness reports, Renamo gunmen kidnapped 19 young adults in Mavende, Manica province, after the Mozambican army had tried to destroy a former Renamo base. The Renamo gunmen used the hostages as a human shield as they crossed the River Save while fleeing towards Gaza province. Two of the hostages later escaped.
22 July Four men went on trial in Maputo charged with the kidnapping of two businessmen in 2012. In the first case, Jose Moreira Alves, owner of Jomofi Construction, was kidnapped and the kidnappers demanded USD2 million for his release. After negotiations, the kidnappers accepted a payment of USD300,000 and released the victim three days after the payment. The second case was in December 2012 when Janudin Norudini Dali, owner of Bakery Lafoes, was kidnapped from his residence in Maputo. The kidnappers withdrew large sums using the victim’s credit cards and also demanded 600,000 Meticais (USD19,350) for the victim’s release. After the payment was made, the kidnappers demanded a further USD200,000.
7 July According to a security source in Maiduguri, the capital of the province from where nearly 300 girls were taken from their boarding school in Chibok on 14 April, about 63 of the girls have escaped from their Boko Haram kidnappers. Nearly 300 girls and women were originally kidnapped and 50 had previously managed to escape leaving more than 150 still in Boko Haram hands.
9 July Golden Chioma, a lawyer and Chairman of the Judiciary Committee of the Rivers State House of Assembly, was kidnapped by unidentified gunmen in Diobu, Port Harcourt. It was not immediately known if the kidnapping was for political or economic reasons.
12 July Newspaper reports claimed that a palpable fear has gripped many parts of Lagos State because, in the past two months, no fewer than 10 cases of kidnapping or attempted kidnapping have been reported in different parts of the State. Kidnapping has been on the rise in the country but Lagos has suddenly become a special ground for kidnappers.
16 July Nkecha Ogbuka was kidnapped by gunmen as she drove her car in Aba, Abia State. Information about the incident was sketchy but she is said to have been kidnapped around 8:45pm as she drove along the Aba-Owerri road. It has been reported that the kidnappers have demanded a ransom for her release.
16 July German broadcaster Deutsche Welle reported that a German national had been kidnapped in the northeast town of Gombi. Gombi is close to an area where Boko Haram has been operating during the past year. The unnamed man was teaching at a technical college. He was kidnapped at around 7:00am from outside his residence by about 20 gunmen as he left for work. The kidnappers were riding 10 motorcycles.
19 July Residents of Oji River Local Government Area in Enugu State have raised alarm over the increasing rate of kidnapping in the area. Two cases were highlighted. The first was of a trader at the Oji River market known as “Barrywhite” who was kidnapped while supplying building material to a site in Inyi. The gang kidnapped and killed him before calling his wife to inform her of the fact. They threatened to kill other family members if she did not pay a ransom of N5 million (USD31,000). When she delivered the ransom, the kidnappers showed her the decomposing body of her husband in a shallow grave. A second incident was that of a schoolteacher in her 50s who was kidnapped from her residence. She was released after her family paid a ransom of N5 million (USD31,000) although the kidnappers had initially demanded N10 million (USD62,000).
20 July The Imo State police command discovered an eight bedroom underground kidnappers’ safe house in Umuchima Village, Okwu Autonomous Community in Ikedurur Local Government Area. The property was being used by kidnappers to house victims from various parts of the country. Two kidnapping victims were rescued during the operation. The owner of the property is said to have died some time ago.
28 July Unknown gunmen attacked the residence of the former Bayelsa State Governor, Chief Timipire Sylva, in the Brass and Nembe area at about 2:00am and kidnapped his 86 year old uncle, Pa Benson Adigio-Eseni. It was not immediately clear whether the kidnapping had a political motive or was an attempt by jobless youths to collect a ransom payment from the victim’s wealthy family members.
30 July Madam Florentina Paulker (90), the mother of Senator Emmanuel Paulker, Representative for Bayelsa Central, was kidnapped by five gunmen who forced entry to her residence at Opolo around 3:00am. Madam Florentina had been kidnapped previously on 23 February 2010 by gunmen who demanded N100 million (USD615,000). Within 24 hours of the kidnapping, the Bayelsa State Commissioner of Police reported that four suspects had been arrested in connection with the crime.
10 July The 7 year old son of Ernest Sesay was kidnapped from his residence in Freetown by Joseph Samai (aka “Paw Paw”) a friend of the family. “Paw Paw” went to the boy’s family compound and asked for his father. On being told that his father had gone into town, he invited the boy and three friends to accompany him to buy a football which they did reluctantly. Once out of the compound, “Paw Paw” bundled the boy into a taxi which then sped off. The victim was held in a dark room in a house. The following day, “Paw Paw” contacted the boy’s father with a ransom demand of USD40,000. Ernest Sesay offered 16 million Leones (USD3,640) which was refused. The police mounted an arrest operation at the payment, arrested “Paw Paw” and rescued the boy.
11 July According to Andrew Mwangura, Secretary General of the Seafarers Union of Kenya, two Kenyan nationals, the Captain and an engineer, are among crew members of the Kenyan owned MV Jamila which was attacked while being repaired at sea between Uarseiek and El Maan, 40 miles from Mogadishu. The ship was transporting timber from Mozambique to Mogadishu. Later reports stated that there were 11 crew members on the vessel – six Kenyans, four Tanzanians and a Somali. Eye witnesses said that al Shabab fighters took control of the vessel.
22 July The Zambian government confirmed reports that Felix Ngoma, a Zambian aid worker with the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), was kidnapped 18 days earlier in Darfur. It was unclear which group was responsible for the kidnapping but the available information points to the pro-government militia, Janjaweed. Apparently, the kidnappers demanded a ransom for the victim’s release. On 25 July, an official from the joint mission of the United Nations and the African Union (UNAMID) said that the victim had been released and was in good health. No details were provided of the circumstances of his release.