Kidnapping in Africa
12 November According to data released at an Allianz seminar in Cape Town, 62% of foreign nationals who were kidnapped in Africa worked in the construction and engineering sectors. Construction is the worst affected industry in countries like Nigeria and parts of the Sahel region. Nigeria and Somalia have the highest number of kidnapping incidents mainly as a result of insurgencies. The Democratic Republic of Congo, Mozambique, Madagascar and South Africa have medium risk ratings. The average ransom payment is between USD100, 0000 and USD150,000.
Alleged plot to kidnap Norwegian diplomats
12 November European law-enforcement agencies claimed to have broken up a Kurdish Sunni terror group, Rawti Shax, with Islamic State links, based in Norway with members who were willing to become suicide bombers and who planned to kidnap Norwegian diplomats either in Europe or the Middle East and hold them as hostages. Thirteen people were arrested in simultaneous operations in Italy, the United Kingdom and Norway. Other operations in Germany, Finland and Switzerland yielded important electronic devices and documents. The Italian authorities who led the investigation said they had documented evidence that the alleged group espoused a radical and violent ideology and was looking to obtain weapons, particularly in the Netherlands. Four men were arrested across England who were believed to be plotting on the dark web to kidnap British diplomats in an attempt to get their Norway-based leader, fundamentalist preacher Najmuddin Ahmad Faraj (53), aka “Mullah Krekar”, freed from a Norwegian jail.
Use of kidnapping for ransom growing – US and UN sources
17 November The following is a summary of extracts from several articles:
1. In 2012 a top Washington official for combating terror finance described kidnapping for ransom as “today’s most significant sources for terror financing”. The volume of money al Qaeda and Islamic State (IS) has taken from ransoms over the last three years has exceeded USD165 million according to one credible estimate.
2. There is little indication that the US Administration’s new efforts at obtaining the release of hostages will be matched by new efforts to persuade foreign governments – most notably US allies – to stop paying ransoms directly or indirectly to terrorists from state funds. These payments are reportedly a key source of the escalating kidnapping for ransom problem, funding the conquest of territory by violent extremists and encouraging future attacks.
3. An investigation by a journalist for the New York Times concluded that “Europe has become an inadvertent underwriter of al Qaeda” by paying ransoms. France allegedly tops the list at USD58.1 million. The article also states that al Qaeda’s North African group was financed initially through funding from a 5 million Euros seed funding project paid by the German government in exchange for dozens of kidnapped European tourists.
4. According to another article, “diplomats say ransoms paid or arranged by western European governments and the Gulf state of Qatar have provided the bulk of financial support for violent groups”. A Reuters report last year said:”Qatari officials deny paying ransoms for hostages, but western diplomatic sources in Doha say otherwise”.
5. A report in the Wall Street Journal said that in the case of 13 nuns and 3 other women held hostage by al Qaeda Nusra Front in Syria, “Qatar paid a USD16 million ransom, according to a Lebanese official”. It also claimed that Yemeni and European officials stated Qatar and Oman had, allegedly, paid a combined USD20.4 million in ransoms to al Qaeda’s Yemeni affiliate, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, in exchange for the release of four Europeans.
9 November Zhao Haihan, first secretary at the Chinese Embassy in Luanda, said during an interview that a Chinese national is targeted for kidnapping every two days in Luanda. He added that the incidents pose a “serious threat” to Chinese investment and said that the Angolan police had failed to crack down on the crimes. The Chinese-Angola Friendship Association said 10 Chinese had been kidnapped in 2015 with more than 15 million kwanza (USD110,000) being paid in ransom. Trade between China and Angola was USD37.7 billion in 2014, an amount that is equal to Angola’s combined trade with its 10 next biggest trading partners according to data from Bloomberg.
Democratic Republic of Congo
2 November According to the Rural Development Centre (known by its French acronym, Cederu), a partner NGO of the World Food Programme (WFP), sixteen aid workers were kidnapped on 1 November at Katwiguru, North Kivu. Two women were released but the 14 others are still being held. A WFP official said that the kidnappers had demanded a ransom but did not specify the amount. In a separate incident, two workers with Concern Worldwide, a Congolese national and a British national, were kidnapped by four armed men on the outskirts of Kibua, North Kivu, on 30 October but were released after being held for a few hours. There is speculation over the identity of the kidnappers. Uganda based Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), has been known to generate income through kidnapping in North Kivu. However, one source said that it could be smaller groups of bandits rather than one large militia. The source added that the region is teeming with dozens of militias and it is feared kidnapping for ransom could be used by new groups to fund their operations.
14 November The three children, two daughters aged 10 and four years and a son aged 7 years, of Isaiah Ogwe, Homa Bay County Secretary, were kidnapped from their home in Knayada, on the outskirts of Rodi Kopany, at around 10:00am. The kidnappers sent a text to Mr. Ogwe demanding a ransom of Sh.6 million (USD65,200) for the release of his children. Police traced the telephone signals to Muhuru Bay in Migori County along the Kenya-Tanzania border, about 80 kilometres from Homa Bay. The telephone has since been turned off.
25 November A court in Oslo ruled that the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) was guilty of gross negligence and should pay 4.4 million crowns (USD507,000) in damages to a former employee who was abducted by gunmen from a Kenyan refugee camp in 2012. Steve Dennis, a Canadian who had spent 10 years working in the field, filed a lawsuit against NRC saying that a leg injury and post traumatic stress disorder from the attack had limited his work options. He and three colleagues were kidnapped from Dadaab refugee camp and taken to Somalia where they were held for four days before being rescued by Somali militia and Kenyan troops. A driver was killed and several people, including Dennis, suffered gunshot wounds during the kidnapping.
27 November Suspected members of al Shabaab militia crossed the border from Somalia into Kenya and held the Kenyan border village of Konton, Wajir East, hostage and lectured residents. Locals reported that the militia, that numbered about 18 members, was led by a bearded old man, suspected of being Mohamed Kuno alias “Gamadhere”, who has a bounty of Sh20 million (USD217,400) on his head after, allegedly, masterminding the Garissa University College attack. The North Eastern Regional Coordinator said that the militia, who control a small Somali town called Dar er Salem which is 15kms from Konton area, was immediately repulsed by a Kenya Defence Force unit stationed at Gerille, 12kms from Konton. The al Shabaab militia retreated back across the border.
2 November Mohammed al Gaddar, a Minister in the self-proclaimed Tripoli based government, was kidnapped by a group of armed men in Tripoli. No group has yet claimed responsibility for the kidnapping. The security and defence commission of the General National Congress (GNC) said in a statement that it “strongly condemned” the kidnapping by “an armed group linked to the interior minister”. Anonymous sources said an armed group called the Revolutionaries of Tripoli and led by Haytham al Tajouri, was responsible.
8 November Sladjana Stankovic, a female communications officer, and Jovica Stepic, a driver, both staff members of the Serbian Embassy, were kidnapped when their diplomatic convoy that included the ambassador, came under fire in the coastal city of Sabratha. A Libyan security source confirmed the ambassador had escaped and said the vehicle carrying the two kidnapped staff members was stopped by gunmen in two cars.
20 November Heavily armed gunmen shouting “Allahu akbar” stormed the Radisson Blu Hotel in Bamako early in the morning. The militants forced their way past hotel security using fake diplomatic number plates and then burst into the hotel lobby firing their weapons indiscriminately. They took about 100 hostages and at least 19 people, including an American development worker and a Belgian citizen, and three attackers were killed. When the attack started there were 125 guests, including diplomats, businesspeople and aircrew from the US, Europe, India, China, Turkey, Russia and Algeria, and 13 hotel employees inside. Al Jazeera reported it had received a recording stating that a local militant group, al Mourabitoun, an al Qaeda affiliate that considers itself an Islamic State rival, had carried out the assault. Hostages who were able to prove their Moslem faith were released. The hostage siege was ended in a joint operation mounted by Malian troops and American and French special forces. The Russian authorities later confirmed that six employees of the Russian airline, Volga-Dniepr, had been killed during the siege.
25 November The South African human aid group, Gift of the Givers Foundation, announced that a negotiator had managed to track down the kidnappers of South African Stephen McGowan who was kidnapped along with Swede, Johan Gustafsson, from Timbuktu in 2011 apparently by al Qaeda militants. A third hostage, Dutch national Sjaak Rijke was later freed after a gun battle between French forces and terrorists. Imtiaz Sooliman of Gift of the Givers said: “They’ve told us indirectly that they recognise us as negotiators and they’re willing to talk to us. And the first step is that they will give us a video that has been made for us. Once we watch this video, we’ll then look at the next step thereafter”.
24 November Hariche Arquissandas, a Mozambican citizen of Indian descent and one of the managers of the Grupo Hariche Steel, Mozambique, one of the largest 100 companies in the country, was kidnapped at around 1:00pm by four armed men shortly after entering his residence in the coastal neighbourhood of Triunfo in Maputo. The kidnappers dragged him out of his house and forced him into a car before driving away. The incident was filmed by a surveillance camera on the victim’s house. In the video, four men in civilian clothes can be seen loitering in the street. As the gate begins to close behind the victim’s car, three of the men run towards the house. One prevents the gate closing while the other two forcefully pull the victim towards the getaway car which has been brought up to the gate. The family gave copies of the film to the police and the independent television station, STV.
2 November A member of the family said that the kidnappers of Mr. Adetona Olayimika, a wholesale distributor of Reckitt Benckiser Nigeria Ltd. that supplies antiseptic products to retailers at the Ughelli market, had contacted the victim’s wife using telephones of other kidnapping victims they are holding, and demanded a ransom of N8 million (USD40,200). He added that Mrs. Olaymika had told the kidnappers that the family did not have that sort of money but they insisted that she should have a meeting with other family members and friends to discuss raising the money. The family were going public to appeal to the kidnappers to release Mr. Olaymika. The victim was kidnapped in the evening of 28 October at Ughelli, Delta State, while returning home from work.
2 November Evelyn Christmas, wife of Mark Christmas, a pastor of the Redeemed Christian Church, New Anointing Chapel in Yanagoa, Bayelsa State, said that her husband had been kidnapped with two other people on 18 October from their hometown, Biseingbene, Bayelsa State. She added her husband had been invited to the community by unknown people but when he arrived he found the invitation was a false one and a plan to kidnap him. The kidnappers have contacted her and demanded N200,000 (USD1,000) to pay for telephone calls and N30 million (USD151,000) as ransom. She told her family she planned to contact the police but they dissuaded her saying she should avoid incurring more danger as her husband might be killed.
3 November Detectives in Ondo State arrested four suspected kidnappers of Mrs. Eralkhuemen Unulkiere (53), a matron working with the Rubber Estate Nigeria Limited at Araromi Obu, Ondo State. The victim had been rescued the previous night after a well coordinated intelligence gathering operation that led to a rescue operation in the Creeks. The victim was kidnapped when she was ambushed on her way to church along Alaye-Araromi road. The kidnappers demanded a ransom of N35 million (USD175,900) from the management of the company and her family. A member of the Ondo State Police Command said that the suspects had made confessional statements and no ransom had been paid.
5 November Over 200 ex-militant fighters under the aegis of the Peace and Cultural Development Initiative (PCDI) have pledged to work with the Bayelsa State government and security agencies to halt the trend of kidnapping and other forms of violent crime in the State.
9 November Mrs. Evelyn Agboro (68) was kidnapped at Emevor, Isoko North Local Government Area, Delta State, over the weekend by armed men who drove their vehicle into the victim’s house compound and forced her into the car at gunpoint. A spokesman for the Delta State police said that, on receiving the report of the kidnapping, detectives had swung into action and had trailed the suspects. The kidnappers, when they became aware the police were following, abandoned their car and fled with their victim into the bush. He added that a ransom demand had been received.
15 November At about 3:00am, four gunmen invaded Polako Community, Yanagoa Local Government Area, Bayelsa State, and kidnapped Pereama Freetown, a popular Ijaw musician, who was on stage at a wake-keep ceremony at the wake-keep area when the gunmen struck. The kidnappers walked onto the stage, surrounded their victim, snatched the microphone from his hands, fired into the air to deter would be helpers and forced him to accompany them to a waiting speedboat before escaping along the Polako River. A 37 year old man was shot dead by a stray bullet during the abduction.
17 November Madam Beauty Ogere Siasia (72), mother of the Nigeria Football Federation Dream Team VI coach, Samson Siasia, was kidnapped from her home in Odoni village, Sagbama Local Government Area, Bayelsa State, by three gunmen who entered the house in the early hours of the morning. It has been reported that the kidnappers hid near the house and waited until most of the local residents were asleep before striking. Samson Siasia was in The Gambia with the Nigeria Under 23 team at a pre-Cup of Nations training camp. Sources stated that the kidnappers demanded a ransom of N150million (USD750,000). The kidnappers later reduced their demand to N50 million (USD250,000) followed by N35 million (USD175,000). On 28 November, the victim was abandoned by her kidnappers along the East-West road at around 1:30am. She was rescued by members of the Anti-Kidnapping Unit of the Bayelsa State Police command who, a spokesman said, were in “hot pursuit” of the kidnappers. It was not clear if a ransom had been paid.
19 November Professor Ken Anukweje, Director of Sports at the University of Port Harcourt, a sports medicine expert and Athletics of Nigeria Board Member, was kidnapped early in the morning in Port Harcourt, Rivers State. He was being driven to Port Harcourt international airport when gunmen ambushed his car on the Aluu-Airport link road shooting dead his driver before disappearing with the professor.
19 November Mrs. Nnenna, a member of staff of the new generation banks operating in Aba, regained her freedom one day after being kidnapped. She was returning home after work the previous evening in a vehicle being driven by a colleague. They were not aware that they were being followed by kidnappers in a tricycle popularly known as “Keke NAPEP”. The kidnappers stopped their vehicle, overpowered the two women, took the car keys from the other woman and drove their victim away. According to unconfirmed reports, the kidnappers contacted the victim’s family and demanded N20 million (USD100,500) for her release. It is not clear if the family paid a ransom for the victim’s release.
20 November Unidentified gunmen kidnapped a clergyman, Pastor Peter, at he returned to his home in Rumuji, Emohua Local Government Area, Rivers State. The kidnappers have contacted the Pastor’s relatives and demanded a ransom of N6 million (USD30,150).
22 November Steve Kanu (4) was rescued by police after being kidnapped on 2 November from his home in Abeokuta, Ogun State, while playing with his puppy in the compound. The kidnappers forced their way into the home of his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Mucipal Kanu, in a taxi without number plates and forced the boy into the vehicle before driving away. Following media reports of the kidnapping, the kidnappers contacted the boy’s parents threatening to kill him if they did not stop the media and demanding a ransom of N11 million (USD55,275).. Four suspected kidnappers were later arrested in Enugu State, some 500 kilometres from the scene of the kidnapping. One of those arrested, Maureen Uchenna, confessed that they demanded N11 million to fund an overseas trip and proposed wedding ceremony.
24 November Krinpere Douglas, cousin of Timipre Sylva, the All Progressives Congress (APC) gubernatorial candidate for Bayelsa State, was kidnapped as he travelled along the Ogbia-Brass waterways when the fleet of boats he was travelling with was attacked by gunmen. It was reported that the victim was travelling to Okpoma and Brass areas to attend a political rally in support of Sylva.
26 November Mrs. Tokoni TrustGod was kidnapped from her residence in Angiama Gbene, Bayelsa State, in the early hours of the morning by five armed men who arrived by speedboat. They asked her if she was Professor Millionaire Ambowei’s sister which she denied (she is married to the Professor’s brother). They refused to accept this and forced her into their speedboat. The boat ran out of fuel and the kidnappers saw another boat approaching so abandoned her and ran into the jungle. The passengers in the other boat took her and hid her in a nearby village. The kidnappers returned and fixed their boat before coming to look for her. They threatened to kill the villagers if she was not handed over. She was taken on board the boat again just as a Navy gunboat appeared. The kidnappers fled again and she was rescued by the Navy.
27 November The Polish authorities reported that pirates had attacked a Polish-owned, Cyprus-registered and EuroAfrica operated vessel, Szafir, a 10,000 tonne container ship, when it was anchored about 30 nautical miles off the Nigerian coast. The pirates arrived in two boats during the night and boarded the vessel. They kidnapped the captain, three officers and one crew member leaving eleven crew members on the ship. The vessel was sailing from Belgium to Port Harcourt. According to the wife of one of the crew members who was not kidnapped, when the pirates attacked, many of the sailors barricaded themselves in the engine room and stopped the engines. The pirates were unable to break into the engine room so broke into the cabins instead and kidnapped the people they found.
29 November Mrs. Mabel Abiante (78) was kidnapped from her residence in Andoni Local Government Area, Rivers State, by well over 15 well armed gunmen who entered her house and kidnapped her while she was watching television at around 8:50pm. One of the victim’s daughters was beaten with the butt of a gun on her head and right hand. The kidnappers escaped with their victim in a speedboat along a tributary of the Ngo River which runs near the residence.
29 November Fishermen and witnesses reported that a boat held by Somali pirates had been freed after a gun battle in which seven of the pirates are said to have been killed and two seriously wounded. Security sources said the boat was believed to be an Iranian fishing vessel seized off the central Somali coastline earlier in the week with a crew of fifteen. There was no precise information about the boat and the fate of its crew or whether international forces were involved in the rescue. One witness, a fisherman from the Haradhere area, said the boat could no longer be seen from the coast. On the same day it was reported that pirates had seized a Pakistani vessel sailing under an Iranian flag around the coastal area of the country.
23 November The body of Andries Mcwele, who had been kidnapped by two men from his residence in Nyakallong, Allanridge, Free State, on 20 November, was found in Virginia. The kidnappers contacted the victim’s sister and demanded R290,000 (USD20,000) for his release. She was only able to raise R47,000 (USD3,240) but the kidnappers insisted they wanted the full amount. The victim’s sister alerted the police who mounted an arrest operation at the location of the payment and arrested two suspects.