18 March US State Department Travel Advisories list the following as dangerous places US citizens should not travel to:
3 March According to Romania’s Free Trade Union of Navigators (SLN) and the Romanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, three Romanian crew members aboard the Malta-registered and Romanian shipping company, Histria Shipmanagement, owned product tanker, Histria Ivory, were kidnapped by pirates about 20nm off Lome, Togo, at about 7:30pm. The majority of the 21 Romanian members of the crew took refuge in the vessel’s citadel. The pirates fled with the three victims. Local authorities escorted the vessel to a safe anchorage. It was reported the vessel was damaged during the incident.
5 March Captain Yahuza Badamosi, Head of Maritime Guard Command of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), revealed that the delay in the passage of the Piracy Bill and the slow judicial process in the country were major reasons piracy attacks persisted on Nigerian waterways. He explained that there was no law that criminalised piracy activities. He added that the Piracy Bill was still before the National Assembly.
6 March Delegates at the 10th Chemical & Products Tanker Conference in London were told that Petro-piracy was emerging as a significant threat in West African waters with the Gulf of Guinea at the centre. Since January 2018, vessels carrying cargoes such as jet fuel, diesel, crude oil and marine gas oil were at greater risk. Nigerian pirates continued to use kidnap for ransom as their main strategy with 93 crew members being kidnapped during 15 incidents in 2018. There were 40 attacks on vessels, a 24% increase on the figure in 2017. The average length of captivity for victims was 36 days. Ransoms had increased and pirates had become more aggressive even attacking ships with 16 metre freeboards and armed guards on board. Pirate groups were generally well organised, opportunistic and willing to act without prior intelligence.
8 March Iranian state television reported that Iranian naval forces had repelled an attack on a 150,000 tonne Iranian oil tanker the previous day. The broadcast said pirates in 11 speedboats attacked the tanker in the Gulf of Aden. It showed footage of naval forces opening fire on speedboats but did not say whether the footage was from the latest incident.
8 March The International Chamber of Shipping, a member of the Oil Companies International Marine Forum, and international shipping associations said the combined group had reduced the so-called High Risk Area for piracy attacks on ships and tankers in the Indian Ocean but emphasised that a serious piracy threat remains despite the reduction. The association warned that ship owners and merchant ship operators need to maintain vigilance. The reduction in area will become effective from 1 May 2019. The Indian Ocean is between the eastern coast of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula and Asia to the north.
11 March ReCAAP published a summary of piracy and sea robbery in Asia during February 2019. A total of three incidents of armed robbery against ships were reported and there were no reports of abduction of crew in the Sulu-Celebes Seas and waters off Eastern Sabah. There were also no reports of the hijacking of ships for the theft of oil cargo. The report said that the abduction of crew for ransom in the Sulu-Celebes Saes and waters off Eastern Sabah remained a serious concern. Of the three reported incidents, one occurred on a ship anchored at Caofeidian anchorage, China, a second on board a ship anchored at Belawan anchorage, Indonesia, and the third was on board a ship underway in the Singapore Strait. Compared to February 2018, this was a 50% reduction in reported incidents. During the period January-February 2019, a total of six incidents were reported, all of armed robbery. This was a 65% decrease over the same period in 2018.
14 March The International Maritime Bureau Piracy Reporting Centre said that pirates, armed with machine guns and travelling in two speedboats, had approached an offshore support vessel underway 32nms off the coast of Brass, Nigeria, on 9 March. One speedboat crossed the vessel’s bow while the other engaged the escorting security boat with gunfire. The alarm was raised on board the vessel, all crew members mustered in the engine room and power was shut down. The pirates boarded the vessel with the aid of an elongated ladder, broke into the accommodation, vandalised cabins and stole crew belongings and vessel’s property. The pirates then gained access to the engine room, kidnapped five crew members before escaping with the hostages. The remaining crew members sailed the vessel under escort to a safe anchorage. One Nigerian Navy armed guard was killed during the exchange of fire between the naval security boat and the pirates. This was the third reported attack on vessels off Brass in 2019. In separate incidents on 24 and 25 January, armed pirates attempted to attack two ships.
19 March Retired Nigerian Naval Admiral Dele Ezioba while speaking at a meeting organised by the Nigerian Chamber of Shipping in Lagos, claimed that nine out of every ten pirate attacks on the Nigerian waterways had insider input. He recalled an incident in which an off duty crew member of a particular ship led a group to attack his ship. He added that maritime incidents that occur in Nigeria are first reported to the International Maritime Bureau based in Singapore from where the authorities in Nigeria are informed of the incident. He speculated that the information about the attack could be distorted by the time it gets back to Nigeria. He called for an efficient regulatory body to be established in Nigeria. On 27 March, Reginald Onyenobi, Vice National President of the Nigeria Merchant Navy Officers and Water Transport Senior Staff Association (NMNOWTSSA)denied reports linking piracy attacks on the nation’s waterways to seafarers and claimed it was a move by unscrupulous individuals to tarnish the image of seafarers.
19 March It was reported that on 28 February the Bourbon Offshore PSV Bourbon Explorer 502 escaped an attempted attack by pirates that was very similar to the attack on an offshore support vessel 32nm off Brass on 9 March. On the morning of 28 February, the Bourbon Explorer 502 was operating about 30nm southwest of Bonny Island in the Gulf of Guinea when 16 pirates in two speedboats approached. In response, the Captain increased speed, initiated evasive manoeuvres and all non-essential personnel mustered in the vessel’s citadel. The security escort boat intervened and chased off the pirates. The vessel sustained bullet damage to the bridge but no injuries were reported. She sailed to a safe port after the attack. Nigeria forbids the use of embarked private maritime security contractors. Instead, it permits private contractors to provide for-hire Security Escort Vessel (SEV) services using civilian boats and armed Nigerian Naval active duty servicemen.
20 March Senior commanders from the US Africa Command and the Nigerian Navy, and representatives of maritime forces from the Gulf of Guinea, Europe, North and South America, as well as regional and international organisations, gathered in Lagos, Nigeria, for the opening ceremony of “Obangame Express”. Now in its ninth year, “Obangame Express” is the annual multi-national maritime exercise designed to improve cooperation among the participating nations in order to increase maritime safety and security in the Gulf of Guinea. The Nigerian Navy was hosting the exercise from 14 to 22 March.
29 March In a ceremony held at Rota naval base, Spain, on the day the United Kingdom was originally set to leave the European Union, a Spanish Vice Admiral relieved a British Major General as commander of “Operation Atalanta”. The European Council announced in July 2018 that the headquarters would be transferred from Nothwood, UK, to Rota.
30 March Contship, the vessel operator of the container feeder “Contship Oak” confirmed that four crew members had been kidnapped from the vessel off the coast of Cameroon. Pirates boarded the vessel at the outer anchorage at Douala port and abducted the four crew members.
28 March In the latest issue of the Islamic State (IS) propaganda newsletter, al Naba, IS claimed responsibility for the kidnapping and killing of Kirk Woodman, a Canadian geologist employed by British Columbia based mining company, Neetu Garcha. A photo of what appeared to be his Nova Scotia driving licence was also published. The victim was kidnapped from a mining camp operated by Progress Minerals Inc. on 15 January and his body was found the following day 100km away from the campsite.
30 March A report dated 22 March by Human Rights Watch referred to an interview with Mali security forces on 13 January during which they indicated that Enid Blais, a Canadian, and her travelling companion, Luca Taccheto, an Italian, had been kidnapped in Burkina Faso and taken to Mali. The report titled “Abuses by Armed Islamist Groups in Burkina Faso’s Sahel Region” said: “While no armed Islamist group has taken responsibility for their abduction, they are believed to have been kidnapped and later taken to Mali”. The pair were travelling by car in the country’s southwest en route to Togo when they disappeared in December 2018. In January 2019 a statement by the government of Burkina Faso referred to the pair’s disappearance as a kidnapping. The Canadian government did not confirm the information but said it was not ruling out any possibilities.
11 March Sources reported that Henry Awah, the North West Regional Delegate for Environment and Nature Protection, was released along with his wife, after being kidnapped seven days earlier on 3 March. No group claimed responsibility and there was no ransom demand. The authorities said at the time that operations had been mounted to rescue the two victims.
20 March All 20 members of the University of Buea football team, in the Anglophile southwest of the country, were kidnapped by gunmen during the morning. It was unclear who was responsible. The previous day, Emmanuel Ndounbe Bosso, coach of the Young Sports Academy football team in Bamende, was kidnapped. All 20 team members were released outside Buea town on 22 March.
10 March A 37 year-old man was arrested in Kitengela, Kaijado, following an entrapment operation mounted by detectives from the Directorate of Criminal Investigations on the location of a ransom collection. The man is to be arraigned for allegedly kidnapping an officer of the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) and demanding a ransom of Ksh.2 million (USD19,600). The victim was rescued safely.
18 March South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha held talks in Seoul, Korea, with Libyan Foreign Minister Mohamed Taha Siala during which she requested Libya make every effort towards obtaining the release of a South Korean man who has been a victim of kidnapping in Libya since July 2018. The South Korean and three Filipinos, all engineers, were kidnapped in an attack by armed insurgents on a water project site.
25 March A group of armed Daesh militants travelling in ten SUVs attacked Ghadwa, south of Sabha city, killing a man and kidnapping three others. The attackers cut telephone lines to the area. The previous day, Britain and the United States had warned their citizens against travelling to Libya because of an imminent “terrorist attack” targeting government institutions in Tripoli.
1 March Unidentified gunmen stormed a church in Quaapan Local Government Area, Plateau State, and kidnapped Rev. Thomas Ashaku, a pastor with the ERCC church, and a secretary while they were attending a vigil. It was later reported that an undisclosed ransom had been demanded.
2 March Mike Ohio-Ezomo, the candidate of the All Progressive Party Congress for Owen West Constituency, Edo State, was released by his kidnappers at Owo, Ondo State, after being held for 38 days. He had been kidnapped from his country residence near Uzebba on 23 January 2019. His police orderly was shot dead during the abduction. It was reported that the kidnappers had initially demanded a ransom of N100 million (USD277,800). An Edo State Police spokesman denied any knowledge of a ransom being paid.
4 March According to reports, Mrs. Ozuruonye Juliet Kalu, mother of Samuel Kalu who plays soccer for the national team and Bordeaux in France, was kidnapped by armed men on 27 February 2019 as she drove with some of her children in the Okpulu Umuobo area of Aba. The kidnappers blocked the path of her car, ordered the children out of the car and took Mrs. Kalu away. A source close to the family said the kidnappers initially demanded a ransom of N3 million (USD8,300) that was paid but they refused to release the victim and increased. their demand to N15 million (USD41,700) as they thought her footballer son could pay more. The family were said to be in negotiations with the kidnappers. After being held for six days, the victim was released. A police spokesman said that the circumstances surrounding her release had not been disclosed to him.
8 March Hajiya Maisitiyari (80), mother-in-law of Aminu Masari, governor of Katsina State, was kidnapped by gunmen who broke into her residence at Sabon Gari, Katsina State, in the early hours. The victim was released on 14 March. A spokesman for Katsina State Police Command did not specify if any ransom had been paid.
9 March The Secretary, Caretaker Committee of Isa Local Government Area, Sokoto State, said Surajo Muhammad, a presiding officer of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in the governorship and state House of Assembly elections, had been kidnapped in Dangwandi village, Gebe district, Isa Local Government Area, Sokoto State. He added that then presiding officer was kidnapped on his way to his polling station and, when his cell phone was called, one of the kidnappers answered and confirmed the presiding officer had been kidnapped.
10 March Reda Elsayed Hassanein, an Egyptian businessman in the construction sector, was kidnapped on 6 October 2018 after being lured by kidnappers to travel from Egypt on the pretence of signing a contract for housing construction. He landed initially at Abuja before flying on to Benin where he was met and then kidnapped by nine “businessmen”. During his captivity, the kidnappers called his wife in Egypt and she paid “millions of USD” through the victim’s China account. On 6 March 2019, an informant alerted the police after he heard someone shouting for help and went to investigate. A man came out of the building and said it was “a family affair” claiming it was his younger brother who had gone to Europe and returned after the family had spent more than N2 million (USD5,500) on him. The informant was not satisfied with the explanation and went to the police who found the Egyptian unconscious and in a pool of blood. Apparently, he had been injured by his kidnappers for shouting for help. Two suspects were arrested one of whom admitted the gang had kidnapped the Egyptian, collected ransoms from his wife and hit him over the head with a cutlass when he attempted to escape through a window. The kidnapper also said they had kept their victim with chains around his arms and feet and blindfolded.
12 March Sagir Ahmed, a Lebanese expatriate working with Triactor Construction Company on the construction of the Kano Zoo Road underpass, was kidnapped and his driver killed when gunmen arrived in a black Volkswagen Golf at a company construction site at Dangi, Zoo Road, Kano, at around 7:00am and began shooting. The police said another person had been killed and one wounded in the incident. It was claimed the expatriate went out without his assigned security and driver. On 15 March, Kano State Police Command confirmed that the victim had been killed by his kidnappers after his body was found by villagers in bush at Yansango village, Kumbotso Local Government Area, Kano State. Neither the area manager of Triactor Construction Company nor the police could confirm if a ransom had been demanded.
14 March Sheikh Ahmad Sulaiman, a popular Qur’anic reciter and Islamic scholar, was kidnapped together with five others near Jibya on the Sheme to Kankara highway, Katsina State, as he travelled back to Sokoto State after attending a camp in Dutse, Jigawa State. The kidnappers stopped their vehicle and forced them out before taking them into the bush. On 17 March, it was reported that the kidnappers had demanded N300 million (USD833,300) for the release of Sheikh Ahmad and the five other hostages. On 27 March, a Katsina State public relations officer confirmed that the Sheikh and the other five victims had been released at around 4:00am and claimed that no ransom had been paid for the release of the six victims.
16 March HRH Barrister Godwin Aigbe, the Enogie (King) of Ukhiri, was kidnapped from his palace along Abraka Road, Ikpoba-Pkha Local Government Area, Edo State. Five armed men firing in the air were said to have forced their way into his bedroom and taken him away. The Enogie is a retired Chief Superintendent of Police and it was said that he has been in conflict with some of his subjects who he reported to the police. It was rumoured that some of his subjects had tried previously to burn down his palace. On 19 March, a family member confirmed that negotiations were ongoing with the kidnappers and a ransom demand had been made in a foreign currency but would not disclose the amount. On 22 March, a spokesman for the Edo State Police Command told reporters: “The Enogie of Ukhiri was rescued by our operatives on Wednesday night (20 March) at Upper Sakponba area of Benin City”. He added that no arrests had been made as the kidnappers fled when they sighted the police.
21 March Agents from the Inspector General of Police (IGP) Monitoring Unit in Rivers State shot dead two suspected kidnappers, captured two more and rescued a medical doctor identified as Samuel. The operation took place in Ogbodo Forest, Isiokpo community, Ikwerre Local Government Area, Rivers State. The kidnappers spotted the police unit approaching and opened fire. The kidnappers were killed when the police fired back. The ransom money for the doctor, a locally made gun and other items were recovered from the kidnappers’ den. A police spokesman said the IGP Monitoring Unit had earlier in the week rescued seven kidnap victims including a naval officer from Ubima community and arrested eight suspects.
22 March Friday Okeregbe, a Channels TV reporter, was kidnapped from Games Village, Abuja, after he left his mechanic’s workshop. Sources close to the victim’s family said the kidnappers had contacted the family and demanded a ransom of N50 million (USD138,900).
24 March Jeng Sunail, a North Korean physiotherapist attached to the public hospital in Tsafe Local Government Area, Zamfara State, was kidnapped when armed men stormed the hospital at around 9:45am and took him away from the hospital’s staff quarters. Another expatriate doctor reported the incident to the police.
25 March Reverend John Bako Shekwolo, parish priest of St Theresa Catholic Church, Ankwa, Kachia Local Government Area, Kaduna State, was kidnapped by gunmen from his residence just after midnight.
26 March In the early hours of the morning, Joel Ubandoma, ex-Chairman of the Nigeria Bar Association, Jalingo branch, was kidnapped from his house at Mayo-Dassa, Jalingo. The kidnappers had not contacted the family with a ransom demand.
27 March Suleiman Abubakar, Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) Correspondents’ Chapel Chairman, Nasarawa State, was travelling by bus with his wife and three other women along the Gudi-Garaku Road, Akwanga Local Government Area, Nasarawa State, when the bus was stopped by kidnappers. Abubakar managed to escape but the kidnappers abducted his wife and the three women. They later contacted him and demanded N5 million (USD13,900) to release his wife but he told them he could only afford N50,000 (USD139.00). They allowed him to speak to his wife on the telephone. At 9:45pm on 28 March, the four women were released by their kidnappers. The State Police Public Relations Officer said the release had been down to the sustained pressure from the search operation but Abubakar told journalists he had paid a ransom.
28 March Operatives from the Rivers State Police Command stormed a kidnappers’ hide in thick forest at Uzohia and Ubima, Ikwerre Local Government Area, and rescued four kidnapping for ransom victims, Cecilia Nnamadi, Chuks Daniel, Miguel Jerry and Miracle Okeke. They had all been passengers aboard a commercial bus travelling from Port Harcourt to Onitsha that was stopped by the kidnappers on 18 March. Nine other passengers were also kidnapped but had been released earlier. The kidnappers were waiting for ransom payments before releasing the four victims. There was a shootout between the police and kidnappers in which five kidnappers were killed. Other members of the gang escaped, some with gunshot wounds.
30 March Yusuf Dare, branch manager of the First Bank branch in Bakura Local Government Area of Zamfara State, was kidnapped along with two of his relatives from his residence at Gada Biyu, Gusau, Zamfara State, by gunmen who stormed the house at around 9:00pm. The kidnappers had yet to contact the family with a ransom demand.
30 March The Delta State High Court sitting in Asaba sentenced a four man armed syndicate that specialised in robbing and snatching exotic cars in addition to kidnapping, to death by hanging. Reacting to the verdict, Peter Mrakpor, Attorney General, said the court’s verdict “is justice well-delivered not only to the victims, but to society” and expressed hope that “it will serve as a deterrent to others”.
9 March A businessman was kidnapped from his home in Polokwane, Limpopo, at around 9:30pm after intruders forced their way in, robbed the house and took the victim in his Porsche away from the house. An undisclosed amount of money was withdrawn from the victim’s bank account. On 11 March, the victim was found unharmed after he was dumped in an open field a few kilometres outside Polokwane. He was still tied up and blindfolded.
AMERICA – NORTH
23 March Wanzhen Lu (22), a Chinese student, was kidnapped with violence from an underground garage of a condo building in Markham, Greater Toronto Area, Ontario. Surveillance video showed the victim walking with a girlfriend towards an elevator when three hooded, armed men shot him with a stun gun and then dragged him into a minivan before fleeing the scene. The kidnappers left his girlfriend behind. On the night of 26 March, the victim walked up to a house on Doe Lake Road, Gravenhurst, Ontario, about 90 minutes’ drive (200km) from the scene of the kidnap, and asked for help. The same day the police announced a 35 year-old Toronto man had been arrested in connection with the kidnapping and the minivan had been found in Toronto. Lu sometimes uses the name Peter when in Canada and had been known to drive high-end cars including a Lamborghini, Rolls Royce and Range Rover. York Regional Police later confirmed that a ransom demand had been made but would not say the amount or who received the demand.
1 March The US authorities said suspected members of Mexican cartels were kidnapping for ransom migrants trying to travel to the US. Border Patrol agents in Laredo, Texas, US, reported that they had apprehended recently several migrants who claimed they were threatened and held against their will. One Honduran claimed he had been forced off a bus and taken to an unknown location where he was held by armed men along with about 200 migrants. He had been held for about one week before he escaped and crossed the Rio Grande on his own.
12 March El secretario de Seguridad Publica Alfonso Durazo said that 19 people including women, had been kidnapped from a bus, owned by Transpais, travelling from Tampico to Ciudad Reynosa, Tamaulipas State, on 7 March. Four SUVS carrying armed men, thought to be cartel gunmen, stopped and boarded the bus near San Fernando, Tamaulipas, they forced the 19 victims off the bus into waiting vehicles and drove away. There were 41 passengers on the bus at the time of the incident.
12 March The February monthly report published by la organizacion Alto al Secuestro showed Veracruz as the state with the most investigations into reported kidnapping incidents with 57, followed by Estado de Mexico (20), la Ciudad de Mexico (12), Tabasco (12) and Puebla (11). The report also stated that there were 187 kidnapping incidents involving 207 victims reported throughout the country that showed a 7.8% reduction on the number for January 2019. The number of suspects detained was 136. In contrast, no incidents were reported for February in Baja California Sur, Chiapas, Campeche and Yucatan. During the first three months of the administration of President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, the number of reported incidents showed a decrease of 3% on the figure for the first three months of the administration of ex-President Enrique Pena Nieto. In the first 100 days of President Obrador, there were 547 reported kidnapping incidents involving 639 victims and 455 suspects were detained.
13 March In a joint operation conducted by the police and agents from la Fiscalia General de la Republica (FGR), a kidnapped woman was rescued from a kidnappers’ safe house at Huitzilac, Morelos. Three suspected kidnappers were arrested and weapons, telephones and vehicles seized. The victim had been kidnapped on 10 March at Ocotepec, north Cuernavaca, by several men travelling in two vehicles. The victim’s family made a denuncia to la Fiscalia Especializada en Combate al Secuestro y Extorsion who initiated an investigation and assisted in negotiations with the kidnappers. Through the investigation, the authorities identified where the victim was being held.
16 March La organizacion Alto al Secuestro reported that the number of kidnapping incidents in Chihuahua over the first two months of 2019, had increased 25% when compared to the same period in 2018. There were four reported kidnaps in 2018 compared to five in 2019. During the whole of 2018, there were 25 reported kidnaps in the state. Cesar Peniche Espejel, fiscal general de Chihuahua, disputed these figures claiming there were no reported kidnaps in the state during the first two months of 2019.
20 March The son, Jesus Manuel Labra Felix, and nephew, Marcos Liborio Felix Labra, of Jesus “El Chuy” Labra Aviles, ex-accountant for the Arellano Felix Cartel and one of the architects of making the cartel one of the most powerful in the country, were kidnapped from a Tijuana street by masked men around 5:30pm. “El Chuy” is serving a 40-year sentence in the US for drug trafficking. The incident, that was caught on a passing motorist’s cell phone, shows a party of masked men force one of the victims to climb into a Chevrolet Suburban. It is believed that at least 12 men were involved in the abduction.
7 March Robert O’Brien, Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs, said at a White House meeting that President Trump’s “unparalleled success” in releasing American hostages had nothing to do with paying ransoms or exchanging prisoners, but through the sheer “will of force” and goodwill that he has generated around the world. President Trump, speaking at an Oval Office meeting to greet Danny Burch, an American oil worker who was released after being held for 18 months in Yemen, indicated there were more negotiations going on. He said he loved releasing hostages because of the “end result: a happy man with a happy family”.
14 March Several incidents of “virtual kidnapping” scammers claiming to have kidnapped loved ones have been reported in Indiana. The authorities warned that callers can be vigilant and violent and appear to be calling from the loved one’s personal phone. The scammers pressure their victims to pay ransom demands quickly before the hoax can be discovered. The scam occurs when criminals steal someone’s contact list and use recognisable numbers when calling a victim. The act of using false telephone numbers is called “spoofing” when the caller falsifies the information transmitted to the victim’s caller ID.
17 March The police stated that two Laguna Beach, southern California, families had recently been victim of “virtual kidnapping” scammers who claimed that they had kidnapped one of their children and would kill their loved one if the ransom was not paid. In one of the cases, the scammer was successful as a parent sent the culprit thousands of dollars. The police believed the scammer had had obtained personal information about the victims through unsecured social media sites (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter etc.). On 7 March and again on 8 March, the scammer called two separate families in Laguna Beach and used the same deception. The scammer claimed on each occasion to have kidnapped a daughter and a girl could be heard screaming in the background. He instructed the parent to drive to a specified location in Costa Mesa and wire USD5,000 to an account in Mexico or the daughter would die. The Laguna Beach authorities said they had contacted the Laguna Beach Unified School District and local private schools to alert parents to the scam. On 20 March, law enforcement sources said that scammers were becoming more sophisticated as they have evolved from speaking Spanish and targeting immigrants in the US to using English and contacting targets living in up-market communities such as Beverley Hills and Laguna Beach. They added that they believed the calls were coming from outside the US, including Mexico, specifically Mexican prisons.
AMERICA – SOUTH
18 March The authorities said they still did not have any trace of the brothers, Dayro and Wilman Rivera, ranchers, who were kidnapped five days earlier in San Cayetano, Bolivar. It was thought that common criminals were responsible for the kidnapping but no ransom demand had been received, The authorities offered a reward for information.
23 March Alirio Montenegro Adamez, a military driver, was released by his kidnappers to a commission of la Defensoria del Pueblo in Valle del Cauca. He had been kidnapped by the guerrilla group, EPL, on 21 March at Florida, Valle del Cauca, by armed men while driving a military vehicle near Llanito, Florida. During a follow up operation after the abduction, there was an exchange of fire between the army and EPL guerrillas in which a guerrilla, Jose Alfredo Solarte Henao, aka “Escalera”, was killed.
30 March Manuel Ricardo Nanclares Torres (60), a lawyer, was kidnapped during the afternoon in Uribia, La Guajira. The victim was abducted from his residence at around 6:45pm when several armed men forced him aboard a vehicle. The vehicle was later found abandoned on a backroad to Cerrio de la Teta.
17 March The bodies of Miguel Antonio Caballero and Katerine Caballero, brother and sister, were found in a rubbish dump at El Sombrero, Guarico, Aragua. The two siblings had been kidnapped at around 7:00pm as they arrived home at Barbacoas, Aragua. Several armed men forced them into a vehicle and drove away. The family informed el Cuerpo de Investigaciones Cientificas, Penales y Criminalisticas (Cicpc) who initiated an investigation. The bodies of the two victims showed signs of having been severely beaten. The children’s father is a businessman in Barbacoas who had been kidnapped by a criminal gang operating in Aragua in 2015.
6 March According to American and Yemeni officials, Danny Burch, an American oil worker who was released in February after being held for 18 months, was freed in an armed raid led by the United Arab Emirates with help from the United States. He had been held by a criminal gang with a record of kidnapping Westerners for ransom and known to have sold hostages to a local affiliate of al Qaeda. He had been rescued from the cellar where he was imprisoned and seven suspects were arrested. A Yemeni official said the rescue operation was coordinated by the Emirates but executed by the Hadrami Elite Forces, a Yemeni special forces group that operates under Emirati command.
5 March The US State Department issued a warning that stated: “As of March 2019, there is credible evidence that US citizens continue to be priority kidnapping targets for violent extremist organisations and criminal kidnap for ransom gangs. In particular, American citizens in the western police districts of Kabul City may be specifically targeted”. The notice advised Americans visiting or residing in the country to consider leaving, characterising the threat to US citizens as “critical”. It listed targets to include US citizens working for private companies, private charities, governmental organisations, schools, hospitals and other institutions, and included American tourists.
16 March A 30 year-old doctor who, with his father, also a doctor, owns two hospitals, one at Rewari and the other at Gurugram, was kidnapped as he returned home from Rewari. His father informed the police at around midnight after his son did not return home. Soon afterwards, the kidnappers contacted the father on WhatsApp and demanded a ransom of Rs.55 lakh (USD77,450) and, frightened for his son’s life, he delivered the money to a location near Kundi. The victim was released on 17 March. On 27 March, the police arrested a suspect, a Mixed Martial Arts fighter, and recovered the ransom money.
29 March Irshad Islam Khan (35), a scrap dealer, was kidnapped at Nagpada, Mumbai. The kidnappers contacted the victim’s nephew, who works with him, and wife, who lives in Uttar Pradesh, using the victim’s cell phone and demanded Rs.2.5 lakh (USD35,200) to release him. The Nagpada police traced the location of the calls and set up a false ransom payment operation. They arrested four suspects who came to collect the money and were then led to where the victim was being held.
27 March The Lahore Police released a report that revealed Mazhar Abbas, a telephone operator in the office of the Lahore Deputy Commissioner of Police, had been arrested for involvement in a kidnapping in which the ransom demand was for Bitcoin, the cryptocurrency. Six suspects including two police constables, two money exchange/bitcoin dealers, the telephone operator and a student of the victim were arrested. Professor Shahid Naseer, an information technology teacher, was kidnapped by the gang on 19 March. A student of the victim had engaged the other suspects in the crime. They rented a car from Sheikhupura, drove it to the Deputy Commissioner’s office where they replaced the number plates with official green ones. They then kidnapped the victim and kept him in a safe house while they contacted his family and demanded a ransom of Rs.20 million (USD142,850). The family made a first payment of Rs.2.5 million (USD17,850). The gang contacted the family again to collect the remainder of the ransom. The police used digital technology to trace the kidnappers, arrested them and freed the victim. The police said it was the first instance of the use of cryptocurrency for ransom in the country and expressed concern that it might start a precedent.
11 May Sabah Police Commissioner Datuk Omar Mammah said the dusk-to-dawn curfew on Sabah’s east coast that was due to end on 12 March would be extended for another two weeks until 27 March due to the continuing threat of kidnap for ransom groups and other criminals from the Philippines.
12 March Intelligence reports said that an armed gang of the Philippines based Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) terrorists have been in in waters off Sabah in a fresh hunt for hostages to fund their campaign. The group, thought to be about 17 strong, is believed to be led by ASG sub-commanders Salip Mura, Majan Sanidjuan, Apo Mike and Abu Radin. They left their Jolo base two days ago for the Tawi Tawi Islands. The report claimed the group had been using underworld contacts in Tawi Tawi to identify potential high-value targets along Sabah’s eastern coast.
14 March Lieutenant Colonel Don Tempelnuevo, Commander, 44th Infantry Battalion, said that five suspected members of the notorious kidnap for ransom and illegal drug trading group, “Barhama Alih”, had been arrested in separate operations in Zamboanga Sibugay province. Weapons, explosives and ammunition had also been seized during the operations.
REST OF THE WORLD
13 March A video was released showing the recent kidnapping of Gregory Kucherkov, CEO of an Ukrainian blockchain start-up, Cornerstone. The video showed two men kidnapping the victim at gunpoint in Kiev. Cornerstone is currently planning an Initial Coin Offering (ICO) and had done a private sale to raise capital for the venture. At the time of the report, no ransom has been demanded.
Trinidad and Tobago
18 March Anthony George (32), a fishing boat captain, and Kenyon Alexander (29), a crew member, were kidnapped at night by Venezuelan gunmen while fishing in waters between Trinidad and Venezuela. They were taken aboard the pirates’ boat. Alexander managed to jump overboard and swim to an offshore installation from which he was eventually picked up by a passing boat. The whereabouts of George was not known. The kidnappers contacted the two men’s families and demanded a ransom of USD10,000 for Alexander and USD5,000 for George. The pirates stole both men’s cell phones and sent a photograph to their families as proof they had kidnapped them. They threatened to kill the victims if the ransom was not paid
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