Daily Beast March 21, 2012
On Tuesday afternoon, in the small inland Somali town of Adado, law enforcement officials gazed skyward as a single-engine aircraft circled close overhead. The plane—a U.K.-owned KingAir 200 operated by the British company Phoenix Aviation and reportedly chartered by the British private security firm Salama Fikira—dropped a sack containing an estimated $800,000 to $1 million in cash. The stash was ransom for 56-year-old Judith Tebbutt, a British citizen held hostage for nearly seven months by Somali pirates.
Adado has been a hotbed of hostage rescues this year: Navy SEALs staged a dramatic operation to recover American Jessica Buchanan from the town in January. Tebbutt had been in the pirates’ possession since September 11 of last year, when a Somali gang kidnapped her from an upscale resort in a remote region of Kenya near Somalia’s lawless border. During the abduction, the pirates shot and killed her husband, David; then slipped into a boat and glided north into the country that even locals call “the Land of Death”.
Tebbutt’s initial captors, a dozen or so fishermen and former hotel employees in the area, are thought to be originally from the Bajuni islands in Kenya, and are purported to have connections with the radical Somali terror group Al-Shabab. They sold Tebbutt to a second band of pirates based in Haradhere, on the northern Somali coast. The group that received the ransom this week was from the Ceyr and Saleeban—two parts of the large Hawiye clan—and the gangleader is known to be a man called Bashir.
Channel 4 News January 5, 2012
As British private security companies queue up to offer armed guards to counter pirate attacks off Somalia, a government report calls for tighter regulation of a flourishing industry
The report by the foreign affairs committee acknowledged that the government was right to allow the use of armed guards on boats subject to certain conditions but it expressed concerns about what the accompanying guidelines omitted, saying the rules need to be tightened.
It pointed out that there are more than sixty firms offering armed maritime protection for the region and said the government “should not offload responsibility onto ship owners to deal with the most difficult aspects of handling private armed guards”.
There is a danger that unless unequivocal guidance is produced, then we may once again give pirates the upper hand. Peter Cook
It said “the guidance on the use of force, particularly lethal force, is very limited” and that the government must not leave guidance on the use of potentially lethal force “to private companies to agree upon”.
Associated Press at The Star October 25, 2011
Swiss couple Olivier David Och and Daniela Widmer are shown holding a newspaper dated Sept. 15 with armed, masked men behind them.
The pair are being held in northwest Pakistan close to the Afghan border. They were seized in July in nearby Baluchistan province.
The video was given to the Associated Press on Tuesday by a local resident who is purportedly in contact with the militants. Its authenticity could not be independently verified.
Militants often kidnap wealthy Pakistanis and less commonly foreigners. Large ransoms are often paid.
By ISHTIAQ MAHSUD, Associated Press – July 29, 2011
SHAWAL, Pakistan (AP) — The Pakistani Taliban have custody of two kidnapped Swiss tourists and will free them if the U.S. releases a female Pakistani scientist convicted of trying to kill Americans, the No. 2 commander of the militant group told The Associated Press.
Gunmen abducted the man and woman as they traveled in the southwestern Baluchistan province earlier this month.
Authorities later said the two were taken to South Waziristan, a northwestern tribal region that borders Afghanistan and has been a hotbed of Pakistani Taliban activity for years.
Many locals and several foreigners have been kidnapped by militants in the border region over the past eight years. Some have been killed, while others have been released or their fate is unknown, often after ransoms have been paid.
The commander, Waliur Rehman, spoke to an AP reporter on Thursday in the Shawal area of South Waziristan. He said his group ordered the kidnapping in a bid to gain freedom for Aafia Siddiqui, a U.S.-educated neuroscience specialist and mother of three who is serving 86 years in an American jail for trying to shoot U.S. security officials in Afghanistan.
Rehman said that if Siddiqui is not freed, a Taliban court will decide their fate. He did not give any deadlines.
“We have not tortured this couple, and we have no such intention,” he added.
Officials at the Swiss and U.S. embassies in Islamabad declined to comment Friday on Rehman’s demand.
Three Britons, One American, two Kenyans, have been arrested trying to smuggle a cash ransom of more than £2 million into Somalia to secure the release of two hijacked ships from pirates
The Telegraph May 27, 2011
The Britons, who are among a group of six foreigners also understood to include two Kenyans and an American – were allegedly caught with $3.6 million in cash at the airport in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu.
Security sources told The Daily Telegraph that a private security firm, Salama Fikira, with a presence in neighbouring Kenya and Mauritius and ties to retired British military personnel, was involved in the operation. The British men were named by security sources as Andrew Oaks and Alex James from Salama Fikira and Mathew Brown from an aviation company.
The firm offers maritime crisis response resolution as one of its services. A spokesman for Salama Fikira declined to comment.
Somali police intercepted the six foreign nationals on Tuesday after they landed in Mogadishu in two unmarked planes.
A source told The Telegraph that the ransom was to be used to secure the release of two vessels, the Egyptian-owned MV Suez and the Chinese-owned MV Yuan Xiang.
Nick Davies, a maritime security expert with experience with Somali piracy cases, said those taken would most likely be private security agents but the route they had chosen was not one commonly used in the industry.
“It will be a risk consultancy-type operation and typically the guys doing it would be very experienced, military guys that have a clear understanding of the tasks they are going to be undertaking,” he said. “The arrests were probably down to an information leak that caught them out, not the way they were doing it or where they were going because it’s a regular thing.”
JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Indonesian forces killed four Somali pirates in a gunfight after a ship and 20 Indonesian hostages held nearly two months were freed, the military said Tuesday.
About 35 pirates left the MV Sinar Kudus in groups Sunday after they received a requested ransom, Rear Adm. Iskandar Sitompul said. A special joint military squad made sure no more pirates were still on the ship and then pursued the groups, catching up with and killing four pirates in an exchange of gunfire.
He refused to discuss the ransom, which media reported was between $3 million and $4.5 million.
The Sinar Kudus was seized in the Arabian Sea on March 16. Soon afterward, the pirates used the hijacked ship to attack another cargo ship nearby, but private security repelled them, the EU Naval Force said.
Somalia has not had a functioning government in two decades, and piracy has flourished off its coast. International confrontations with pirates have grown more violent, and countries have arrested and taken steps to prosecute suspects.
The Somali pirates and the merchant ships that ply the Indian Ocean have two things in common. The first, of course, is that they both make their living at sea. The second is that they lack sufficient incentives to change their harmful behaviour. The pirates persist
– with the help of criminal transnational investors and ever-more-sophisticated equipment – for the simple reason that piracy pays. Ransoms have been spiraling upward, totaling $238 million last year. The Indian Ocean is just too vast to effectively police, and too many ships are easy pickings. In short, the pirates have no reason to change course. But the shipping companies apparently lack reason to change course as well. Their vessels aren’t sufficiently hardened against attack, perhaps because they can rely on the world’s navies for protection. And until recently, when pirate cruelty and greed began to get out of hand, they may have calculated that it was cheaper and safer to pay a ransom occasionally than take more drastic measures.
Is this behaviour harmful? Of course it is. Paying ransoms to pirates only encourages piracy, drawing more pirates and investors into the increasingly lucrative racket and underwriting more effective pirate ships, weapons and technology. Every dollar paid in ransom makes the seas a more dangerous place. Please read the entire article here
Last week, the British aid worker Linda Norgrove was killed when US forces stormed the camp of the group holding her to ransom. In September, eight tourists died during a botched hostage rescue in Manila.
In August, three Russian airmen were kidnapped in Darfur. In July, four journalists were seized in Mexico. In June, a Russian businessman’s grand-daughter was taken hostage. In May, it was Chinese technicians in Nigeria; in April, eight Red Cross workers in the Democratic Republic of Congo; in March, a British film-maker in Pakistan; in February, four Pakistani employees of a US aid agency; and in January, a US contractor in Iraq.
A ship seized off Somalia was redeemed for $7m, (£4.4m) a ransom of $550,000 was paid for a German banker’s wife, and, with $300,000 for an oil worker here and $10,000 for a shopkeeper’s son there, and with governments and insurers making their secret cash drops, it all adds up. If you are a hostage-taker, 2010 is turning out to be a very profitable year.
From Mexico City to Mogadishu, from Mosul to Manila, the numbers of aid workers, Western staff, tourists and locals taken hostage is rising. In Mexico, more than 7,000 were held in 2008 alone, in Nigeria at least 1,000 were taken last year, and in Somalia, foreigners are being kidnapped at a rate of 106 a month. All told, at least 12,000 people are now taken hostage each year, and this weekend more than 2,000 – at least 400 of whom are foreigners – are enduring yet another day in a makeshift “prison”, not knowing, from hour to hour, if they will be freed or whether, once their trade-in value is no longer worth the trouble of their keep, they will be dispensed with. And these numbers do not include the many thousands of children who are abducted as part of marital disputes, or the thousands of women victims of bride kidnapping.
The ransom profits are enormous – and growing. Police in Nigeria estimate that ransoms paid there between 2006 and 2008 exceeded $100m. Al-Qa’ida in West Africa alone makes millions taking hostages. What was once an activity undertaken mainly by insurgents and guerrillas keen to make a political point, or acquire a human bargaining chip, is becoming increasingly commercialised. These days, most hostages are taken for ransom, with sums as high as $1.6m paid for their safe return.
And so has grown up a whole industry to counteract the criminals: firms offering kidnap and ransom insurance, highly paid negotiators, lawyers, and security personnel. Today, after an investigation prompted by Anthony Grey, the Reuters journalist who was held hostage in China for 27 months in the 1960s, we reveal the extraordinary extent of one of the 21st century’s least welcome success stories – the hostage industry, worth at least £1bn a year.