SECURITY UPDATE – MAY 2014


MIDDLE EAST


Iraq

11 May An official of the Interior Ministry said that unidentified gunmen had kidnapped five lawyers from their office in downtown Baghdad. The incident happened late at night when gunmen in several sport utility vehicles stormed the office in Karrada District.

Lebanon

5 May Khaled al Nashar, a Lebanese, was released after being held for three days by his kidnappers. He had been kidnapped in the Baalbek area of Hortaala in what is believed to have been a drug feud. His release was obtained as a result of mediation between the region’s clans.

5 May Wael Mohamed al Yaburi, an Iraqi property tycoon, was kidnapped in the Dohat Aramun region to the south of Beirut. The kidnappers had arranged a meeting with their victim on the pretence of wanting to buy an apartment.

15 May Mohammed Hujeiri, a resident of Arsal in the Bekaa Valley, was kidnapped as he drove to the cattle market in Baalbek. The kidnappers later telephoned his family and demanded USD100,000 for his release. The kidnapping was the first for several weeks after the authorities implemented a security plan to combat kidnapping. It had reached unprecedented levels in the previous months. The victim was released the following day when his family paid USD50,000. However, the kidnappers are holding a relative for whom they are demanding USD200,000.

Syria

15 May Two Times journalists, reporter Anthony Loyd and photographer Jack Hill, and their local “fixer” managed to escape after being kidnapped, beaten and shot at by a rebel gang while returning to the Turkish border. They were held in a warehouse in the town of Tall Rifat. They were rescued when members of the Islamic Front confronted the kidnapping gang and obtained their release.

16 May The NGO, Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), confirmed that the last two of the five members of the NGO had been released after being kidnapped on 2 January. Three members had been released on 4 April and the last two were released on 13 May. The five employees were kidnapped in northern Syria while working at a hospital. MSF closed the hospital and two health centres as a result of the kidnappings.

22 May A report claimed that militants of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) have revived kidnapping for ransom in the country to finance their operations. One specific case quoted is that of four French journalists who were kidnapped in June 2013 and were found by Turkish soldiers on 19 April 2014 on the border with Syria blindfolded and with their hands bound. Although the French Foreign Affairs Minister has insisted the French Government does not pay ransoms, it has been reported that USD18 million was paid to secure their release.

27 May According to the Syrian Foreign Ministry, six inspectors from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) along with five Syrian drivers were kidnapped by opposition fighters. However, later in the day the OPCW reported that all eleven members of the team were safe and well.

Yemen

11 May A Yemeni official said that two gunmen thought to belong to the terrorist group, al Qaeda in the Arabian peninsula (AQAP), tried to kidnap two United States Embassy employees near a barbershop in Sana’a that is used by many foreigners and diplomats. The incident occurred on 24 April. One of the Americans pulled a handgun and shot dead the two assailants. The official added that the two Americans should not have been at the location and had “violated security protocol”.

13 May According to the state news agency Saba, Rudiger Schwidt (60s), was released by his kidnappers. The victim was kidnapped in Sana’a in January and was held in the eastern Marib province by tribesmen who were putting pressure on the government to release two detained family members. Saba added that the victim had been released thanks to “efforts made by the governor of Al-Jawf province” who is a member of the Al-Ashraf tribe in Marib. Sources claimed that the victim was released after President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi ordered the release of one of the detained tribesmen.

17 May A family spokesman said that it is almost one year (27 May 2013) since Pierre Korkie and his wife, Yolande, were kidnapped in Yemen. Yolande was released on 10 January this year. The kidnappers have demanded R32.5 million (USD3 million) for Korkie’s release. The Gift of the Givers Foundation negotiated Yolande’s release. Soon after Yolende’s release they circulated a video of an interview with their office manager in Yemen, Anas al-Hamati, who was subsequently forced to leave Yemen at the end of January for his own safety after al Qaeda accused him of stealing the ransom money. Tribal leaders then took over the negotiations. On 25 February, tribal leaders found out that the victim was still alive but in poor health. Since then, no more information on his health has been available.

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