MIDDLE EAST

Iraq

27 October The US Department of State’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security issued a warning saying: “US Embassy Baghdad has received reports of attempts to kidnap US citizen nongovernmental organisation staff riding in vehicle convoys to provide aid to Mosul, Iraq. Militants demanded to see passports for all travellers in convoys and searched specifically for US citizens”.

Lebanon

31 October The Lebanese Army announced that a Syrian and a Lebanese had been arrested in connection with a kidnapping for ransom operation. Taha al-Omar was kidnapped in Barr Elias, Zahlew, and was being held for ransom until rescued by the army.

Syria

14 October The Public Relations Centre of the Russian Security Service (FSB) reported that Konstantin Zhuravlev (35), a Russian citizen, photographer and blogger, had been released by his kidnappers and had returned to Russia. The victim was travelling from Siberia to the Sahara, when he was kidnapped in October 2013 near the Turkish border in northern Syria by the Liva At Tauhid Brigade who accused him of being a “spy” for President Assad’s government. He had planned to travel through the Syrian desert to other desert areas of the Middle East ending in Egypt when he was kidnapped.

Turkey

23 October The United States Consulate in Istanbul said in an online notice that extremist groups continued their “aggressive efforts” to attack Americans and other foreigners in the city. The notice continued: “These attacks may be pre planned or could occur with little or no warning, and include, but are not limited to: armed attack, attempted kidnapping, bombing or other violent acts”. The consulate also advised its citizens to avoid travelling to southeastern Turkey and to stay away from large crowds, especially in popular tourist destinations, as well as political gatherings and rallies.

Yemen

4 October The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) issued a statement saying that Nourane Houas, a French-Tunisian woman who worked for the ICRC, had arrived in Muscat, Oman, after being released by her kidnappers. She was kidnapped on 1 December 2015 along with a Yemeni colleague who was released a few hours later. The two ICRC employees were kidnapped by a group of armed men as they travelled to work in Sana’a. No group claimed responsibility and the ICRC said it would not comment on the identity of the kidnappers, their motives or details of the release.

6 October The Greek Foreign Affairs Ministry were investigating in conjunction with the Yemeni authorities the alleged kidnapping of a 56 year old Piraeus businessman, the owner of a company specialising in ship repairs. The man appeared in a video uploaded on YouTube on 16 September and, speaking in English, appealed to the Greek government for help claiming he had been kidnapped ten months ago. According to a family member, the man had been working for a company based in Aden for two years and was last seen in December 2015 shortly before he was due to return home for family reasons. The victim has subsequently called the family on two occasions asking for help. The kidnappers have not contacted the family demanding a ransom and the motive is not known.

15 October US Secretary of State John Kerry speaking to reporters in the Swiss city of Lausanne, said that Omani officials had negotiated the release of two American hostages held by Houthi rebels and they were now in Oman. He added that the hostages’ names were not being released. The US State Department expressed gratitude to the Omani government for arranging the release and recognised the “humanitarian gesture” by the Houthis.

20 October Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop confirmed that an Australian man who was understood to be in the country doing charity work believed to be involved with soccer, had been kidnapped near Sana’a. It is thought the victim is under the control of Houthi rebels, a Shia insurgency. The man is said to be a long time resident of the country. On 21 October, a 24 second video recording of Australian soccer coach, Craig Bruce McAllister (56), was released in which he says his kidnappers are demanding that the Australian government pay a ransom in exchange for his release. He said he had been kidnapped by an unnamed group. A member of the Al Ahli Sana’a soccer club, where the victim had been coaching, said he had been kidnapped about one month ago during a training session.

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