MIDDLE EAST

Iraq

5 March The newspaper, Al Araby al Jadeed, reported that the financial situation in the country had forced local militias to resort to kidnapping to obtain funds for their operations. The militias do not differentiate between Sunni and Shiites but kidnap members of both sects purely for money. As an example, the son of businessman who owns several clothes shops in a number of Iraqi cities said his father had been kidnapped in the middle of Baghdad Market. The kidnappers wore official military clothes and drove a civilian car. Five hours later, his father called the family and said the kidnappers were demanding USD200,00. This was later reduced to USD120,000 which was paid and the victim released.

Lebanon

23 March Zaher Hussein Rayed was kidnapped on 21 March in the northeast of the country. His father received a telephone call from the kidnappers 24 hours after his kidnapping demanding a ransom of USD200,000. The victim was first kidnapped two weeks ago by Islamist gunmen on the outskirts of Arsal but released after 24 hours without a ransom being paid.

Saudi Arabia

14 March In a warning posted on line, the US Embassy in Riyadh said that western oil workers in the country risk being attacked or kidnapped by “terrorist” groups. The Embassy stated it “has information stating that, as of early March, individuals associated with a terrorist organisation could be targeting Western oil workers, possibly to include those US citizens working for oil companies in the Eastern Province, for an attack(s) and/or kidnapping(s)”. Westerners have come under attack four times since October 2014. The most recent attack was in February when US defence contractor Vinnell Arabia said two of its employees were shot in Eastern Province.

Syria

2 March “Jihadi John”, who appeared in Islamic State videos of the beheading of western hostages, was named as Mohammed Emwazi (26), born in Kuwait but later resident in west London, United Kingdom. His mother, who now lives in Kuwait, is said to have recognised his voice when he appeared in the first video. Intelligence officers in Kuwait are believed to have questioned his parents who said said that they last spoke to their son when he called from Turkey in 2013 and said he was going to Syria to do humanitarian work.

10 March The Islamic State (IS) released a video in which Mohammed Ismail, who IS claims was an Israeli spy, gives a lengthy confession in which he details his training. The victim is wearing orange robes similar to those worn by western hostages prior to their beheadings. After an eight minute confession, the victim is shown being walked outside and forced to his knees by an adult IS militant and a child soldier aged about 12 years. The boy then shoots the victim in the forehead at close range and goes on to shoot him several more times.

Yemen

2 March Abdullah al Khalidi, Saudi Arabian consul in Aden, arrived in Riyadh after being released by his kidnappers in Yemen. He was kidnapped on 28 March 2012 and subsequently appeared in videos released by al Qaeda in the Arabian Gulf (AQAP) calling on Riyadh to do more to obtain his release. The Saudi Arabian Interior Ministry released a brief statement but did not say how he came to be released adding that the release was a result of “intensive efforts” made by the Saudi Arabian intelligence agency. Less than one month after al Khalidi’s kidnapping, AQAP demanded the release of all its members detained in Saudi Arabia as well as a ransom. The initial ransom demand was USD10 million but this was later increased to USD20 million according to a tribal mediator in August 2012.

19 March A security official revealed that Isabelle Prime, a Frenchwoman, and her Yemeni translator, Shereen Makawi, had been released by their kidnappers. The two women, who work for an international aid agency, were kidnapped in central Sana’a on 24 February while on their way to work. The two victims arrived in Sana’a escorted by tribal mediators. More than 10 countries, including France, have announced the closure of their diplomatic missions in Sana’a since early last month and evacuated diplomatic staff, citing security concerns.

31 March Vice Admiral P. Murugesan, vice chief of the Indian Navy, said that two warships and two passenger ships had been sent to Yemen to assist in the evacuation of Indian nationals from the country. China said it had evacuated more than 500 Chinese nationals from the country amid the growing violence in the country. Three Chinese navy ships that had been carrying out escort missions in the Gulf of Aden and Somali waters were diverted to the port of Aden to carry out evacuations.

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