Kidnapping – Reporters in Yemen seen as high-value targets


August 7 , 2013

Source: Al Jazeera

A video confirming fears that a Dutch couple had been kidnapped in Yemen has increased concerns about the risks facing journalists in the country

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Reporters in Yemen seen as high-value targets

A video confirming fears that a Dutch couple had been kidnapped in Yemen has increased concerns about the risks facing journalists in the country.

Evidence that Dutch freelance journalist Judith Spiegel and her husband Boudewijn Berendsen had been seized was posted on YouTube in mid-July.

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is warning that reporters are now seen as “high-value targets” in a wave of kidnapping that has plagued the country, while Reporters Without Borders has voiced alarm at the growing threat to media staff.

In the the minute-and-a-half video, Spiegel and Berendsen – missing since June – appear scared and tearful as they plead for help.

“My name is Boudewijn Berendsen…”

“And my name is Judith Spiegel. We are kidnapped, here in Yemen. We have a huge problem,” they tell the camera.

Negotiations to secure their release are not proceeding well, Spiegel adds: “So far, nothing has been done. No reaction, no results. These people are armed. If there’s no solution, they will kill us.”

It remains unclear who is holding the couple, who claim on the video that their captors were demanding progress within 10 days, but do not specify what their demands are.

Their abductors’ deadline has since expired.

Premonition

The freelance journalist and stringer for multiple Dutch media knew she risked kidnap, writing in a column for the Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad in March: “When I’m lying awake at night, I realise that I’m nowhere safe in this country…

“The idea of having to spend months with these extremists troubles me, and I don’t want to appear in a movie with a Kalashnikov pointed to my head, as happened to Dominik [Neubauer, an Austrian student who appeared in a video in February 2013], ” she wrote.

Soon after Spiegel and Berendsen were reported missing, a Sanaa police official told Yemeni press it was likely they had been kidnapped .

Both the Yemeni and Dutch government remain tight-lipped about the case, and the journalist’s parents have released few details about what is known.

Frans Timmermans, the Dutch foreign affairs minister, posted on his Facebook page a short statement claiming that victims of abduction always have the ministry’s full attention and that it was important to remain calm.

In a a short written statement, Spiegel’s parents said they knew the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was dealing with the case.

“We realise it’s [the ministry’s] policy that no information is released, and that when it does, it’ll be us knowing first.

“Of course, we find this very difficult, but our only priority is that Judith and Boudewijn are released as soon as possible and are in safety.”

The Yemeni human rights activist and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Tawakkol Karman called on her Facebook page for the country’s president and prime minister to direct their personal attention towards efforts to effect the pair’s release.

“If not for Judith and her husband, for the sake of the reputation of Yemen that’s worsening with each passing day this couple is kidnapped,” she wrote.

Wave of kidnapping

Anthropologist Marina de Regt, who has worked and lived in Yemen and knows Spiegel, told Al Jazeera that kidnapping was now a prominent feature of life in the country where an old “tradition” has grown into a lucrative business.

“The situation has become increasingly dangerous since the Arab Spring in 2011,” said de Regt.

Recent victims include a Finnish couple and Neubauer, kidnapped by al-Qaeda fighters then freed four months later. A week ago, an Iranian embassy employee was seized by gunmen.

“It’s a result of the Yemeni government, not being able to hold on to its people, which is devastating for the country,” explained de Regt.

“The Netherlands and Yemen have a very good relationship, and are probably working very closely to solve this. Still, every case differs… [and that is] what makes it so difficult to negotiate.”

The CPJ argues that “disgruntled tribesmen have resorted to abductions to pressure the government to release imprisoned family members and extort political and financial compensation. Some captives have been sold to, or abducted by, al-Qaeda linked Islamist militants”.

Quirine Eijkman, a researcher at the Counterterrorism Centre of Leiden University , told Al Jazeera: “Over the past two years, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has grown stronger, making Yemen a more fragile country than it already was.

“It’s not for nothing that the United States started employing drone strikes in Yemen. Although I believe that because of these drone attacks, bad sentiment and anger towards the West has grown.”

Reporters Without Borders condemned the abduction, and media outlets have expressed their concern for Spiegel and Boudewijn and are following the case closely.

Rebecca Murray, a journalist who has worked for Al Jazeera from Yemen, praised her Dutch colleague: “[Judith] is one of the few foreigners here that has ventured beyond compound walls and the sensational headlines, to show the world what Yemen and Yemenis are really like, and the daily hardships they face.”

Murray stressed that all the Yemenis she knows – including local journalists – were outraged at the kidnapping.

“There is always a nagging fear you could be abducted on your way to or from the field,” she said.

“We are definitely watching each others’ backs more closely, evaluating risk and tightening security precautions. But as journalists, we still need to go out to get the real story.”

 

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Rallies across France for four Frenchmen held hostage for 1000 days in Niger


June 16 , 2013

Source: krmagazine

The families of four Frenchmen who were taken hostage in the North African republic of Niger in 2010, are planning rallies across France next week. Today, Thursday, June 13, marks the 1000th day of their loved ones being held captive by insurgents linked to al-Qaida in North Africa

Rallies across France for four Frenchmen held hostage for 1000 days in Niger

The families of four Frenchmen who were taken hostage in the North African republic of Niger in 2010, are planning rallies across France next week. Today, Thursday, June 13, marks the 1000th day of their loved ones being held captive by insurgents linked to al-Qaida in North Africa.

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The four French hostages were variously employed by French companies Areva, Vinci and Sogea Satom when they were taken hostage on Sept. 16, 2010, in the town of Arlit, north Niger, by a group claiming to be part of al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), reports 20 Minutes. Areva employee Daniel Larribe and his wife Françoise were among seven people originally kidnapped by AQIM along with five employees of Satom, a subsidiary of the Vinci construction group. Although Françoise Larribe and two of the Satom employees were released in February 2011, Daniel Larribe and three Satom workers, Pierre Legrand, Thierry Dol and Marc Ferret have remained in captivity.

Now, the families of the four remaining Niger hostages plan to hold rallies across France in the cities of Nantes, Nimes, Aix-en-Provence, Orleans and Valence, as well as the French capital, Paris, on June 22, as a reminder of the plight of the four whose whereabouts and safety remain unknown. In a statement released Wednesday, representatives of the four families said, “A thousand days in the wilderness, away from everything and everyone. A thousand days: two and a half years, almost three. A thousand days is intolerable. They need to come back now.”

Understandably, all the families are concerned at what they see as the intolerable delay in any move to have the hostages released. During almost three years of uncertainty, the families have received only bits and pieces of information about their loved ones. When asked recently about the hostages, a spokesman for Quai d’Orsay — the French Foreign Office — had declined to comment “for security reasons and out of respect for the families,” 20 Minutes reported.

A video of the four French nationals held hostage was released by AQIM in September 2012 although it was impossible to verify when the video was filmed, (see accompanying Euronews video). The video showed the hostages in apparent good health. AQIM blamed the French government for delaying negotiations which might lead to the hostages’ release.

For the French government, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius met with hostages’ families in January 2013, telling them that “their loved ones were alive and healthy,” even though they were being held in “very difficult” conditions, reports World Nuclear News. Foreign Minister Fabius said at the time, “As frustrating as it may be, the treatment of cases of kidnapping in fact requires the utmost discretion, in the interests of efficiency and in the interest of the hostages.”

The minister confirmed to hostages’ relatives that those held captive were being properly fed and had access to medical treatment. He also said letters written to the hostages by their families had been delivered to them, adding, “Like all of us, I share the anxiety and impatience of the families in these difficult times.” Fabius concluded that the French president, government and businesses were “determined to secure the release of the hostages and their return to France as quickly as possible.”

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But for the hostages’ families, another six months have slipped by since Fabius’ encouraging statement and there is concern at the apparent inaction on the part of the French government. In mid-April this year, French President Françoise Hollande had put down the lack of progress to lack of response on the part of the kidnappers saying, “We have wanted (contact) for weeks, if not months.”

Despite matters being compounded by the French intervention in Mali, there was some comfort for relatives of hostages this week. Philippe Hugon, director of research at the Institute of International and Strategic Relations (IRIS), in charge of Africa told 20 Minutes, “The various intermediate networks between the kidnappers and the negotiators are moving, they are recovering.”

Referring to the release of a French family, taken hostage in Cameroon in February and released, relatively quickly, in April, Mr. Hugon said, “The situation of the French family taken captive in Cameroon was less complex. In this [Arlit, Niger] case, the release of the hostages is more difficult because the war in Mali, where France is at the forefront, is not finished and because these hostages represent financial and strategic issues important to jihadist groups.”

Encouraging words perhaps, but as 20 Minutes reports, the families of the hostages are tiring of what they see as the “lack of explanations” from the French authorities. As René Robert, grandfather of hostage Pierre Legrand put it, “Since the French military intervention in Mali, [the hostage situation] has become a total unknown. There’s been no explanation as to why matters are taking so long. We expect deeds as well as words. We just want our guys back.”

Few in France will disagree with that sentiment.

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ABP World Group – Executive Protection and Anti Kidnap Services


The issues of security and threats have changed dramatically over the past years and the need for professional protection has increased.

ABP World Group provides Close Protection services, surveillance and investigation worldwide.Our personnel are discrete and professional, with international training and experience.
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Contact us for assistance. We help clients worldwide

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What to do if you are kidnapped -Kidnapping and Hostage Survival Guidelines


The chances of your being kidnapped or taken hostage are small. If it does happen, your chances of survival are high.

Kidnapping is a terrifying experience, but you probably possess more personal resources than you think to cope with the situation. Remember, you are of value to those who are holding you only if you are alive, and they want to keep you that way. Your best defense is passive cooperation. The more time passes, the better your chances of being released alive.

Note: 

For the CAC course (Conduct after Capture) contact ABP World Group. The objective of this course is to better prepare civilians for a kidnap/hostage situation and improve their chances of getting home alive.

kidnap_Negotiation_Hostage_Rescue

Kidnapping can happen anywhere –

you can be taken off the street, from a car, or from your hotel room or residence. The best opportunity for escape is in the beginning, during the confusion of the apprehension while you are still in a public place. If escape is impossible or too risky, you should nevertheless try to cause as much commotion as safely possible to draw attention to the situation. You need to make others aware that an abduction has taken place so that the authorities are notified and the search can begin. Otherwise, it could be hours or days before your absence is reported.

Once you have been forced into a vehicle, you may be blindfolded, beaten (to cause unconsciousness), drugged, or forced to lie face down on the floor of the vehicle. In some instances, hostages have been forced into trunks or specially built compartments for transporting contraband. If drugs are administered, do not resist. Their purpose will be to sedate you and make you more manageable. It is probably better to be drugged than to be beaten unconscious. If you are conscious, follow your captors’ instructions.

While being confined and transported, do not struggle. Calm yourself mentally and concentrate on surviving. Attempt to visualize the route being taken, make a mental note of turns, street noise, smells, etc. Try to keep track of the amount of time spent between points. You will be asked questions about this after your release in an effort to determine where you were held.


Once you have arrived at your destination, you may be placed in a temporary holding area before being moved again to a more permanent detention site. If you are interrogated:

  • Retain a sense of pride but act cooperative.
  • Divulge only information that cannot be used against you. Make every effort to avoid embarrassing the U.S. and the host government.
  • Do not antagonize your interrogator with obstinate behavior.
  • Concentrate on surviving. If you are to be used as a bargaining tool or to obtain ransom, you will be kept alive.

After reaching what you may presume to be your permanent detention site (you may be moved several more times), quickly settle into the situation.

  • Be observant. Notice the details of the room, the sounds of activity in the building and determine the layout of the building by studying what is visible to you. Listen for sounds through walls, windows or out in the streets, and try to distinguish between smells. Note the number, names, physical description, accents, habits , and rank structure of your captors. Try to memorize this information so that you can report it after your release.
  • Know your captors. Memorize their schedule, look for patterns of behavior to be used to your advantage, and identify weaknesses or vulnerabilities. Use this information to assess opportunities to escape.
  • Expect to be accused of being an intelligence agent and to be interrogated intensively. Do not admit to any accusations. Keep your answers short and don’t volunteer information or make unnecessary overtures.
  • Try to establish a rapport with your captors. Family is a universal subject. So are sports and many hobbies. Your goal should be to get the hostage takers to view you as a real person, rather than simply an object. Listen actively to the terrorists’ feelings and concerns, but never praise, participate in, or debate their “cause.” If you know your captors’ language, use it. Ask them to teach you their language.
  • Speak normally. Don’t complain. Avoid being belligerent and comply with all orders and instructions. Once a level of rapport or communication is achieved, try asking for items that will increase your personal comfort. Don’t be afraid to ask for anything you need or want such as medicines, books, or papers. Make requests in a reasonable, low-key manner.
  • Plan on a lengthy stay and devise a way to keep track of the passage of time. If isolated, you can approximate time by noting changes in temperature between night and day, the frequency and intensity of outside noises (traffic, birds), and by observing the alertness of guards.
  • Establish a daily schedule of mental as well as physical exercise. If your movement is extremely limited, use isometric and flexing exercises to keep your muscles toned. To maintain your strength, eat what you are given even if it does not look appetizing and you don’t feel hungry. Use relaxation techniques to reduce stress.
  • If you detect the presence of other hostages in the same building, try to devise ways to communicate.

During interrogation, do not be uncooperative, antagonistic, or hostile towards your captors. Captives who display this type of behavior are often held longer or become the object of torture or punishment. Take a simple, tenable position and stick to it. Be polite and keep your temper. Give short answers. Talk freely about nonessential matters, but be guarded when conversations turn to matters of substance. Don’t be lulled by a friendly approach. Remember, one terrorist may play “Good Guy” and one “Bad Guy.” This is the most common interrogation technique.

Watch for signs of “Stockholm Syndrome” which occurs when the captive, due to the close proximity and the constant pressures involved, begins to relate to, and empathize with, the captors. In some cases, this relationship has resulted in the hostage becoming sympathetic to the point that he/she actively participates in the activities of the group. Establish a friendly rapport with your captors, but maintain your personal dignity and do not compromise your integrity.

If forced to present terrorist demands to authorities, either in writing or on tape, state clearly that the demands are from your captors. Avoid making a plea on your own behalf.

Be patient, as hostage negotiations are often difficult and time consuming. Remember, your chances of survival increase with time. Most episodes of kidnapping or hostage-taking end with no loss of life or physical injury to the captive.  Eventually you will probably be released or rescued. Do not try to escape unless you are certain of success. If you are able to escape, go first to a U.S. Embassy or Consulate to seek protection. If you cannot reach either, go to a host government or friendly government office.

If an attempt is made to rescue you, keep a low profile and immediately follow all instructions. Rescue will generally be attempted only after negotiations have failed. That means that lives of hostages, terrorists, and rescue forces are all at risk during the rescue. You don’t want to be shot in the confusion while the rescue team identifies the terrorists, who may try to disguise themselves as hostages. To protect yourself, follow these rules:

  • DO NOT RUN. Drop to the floor and remain still. If that is not possible, cross your arms on your chest, bow your head, and stand still. Make no sudden moves that a tense rescuer may interpret as hostile.
  • Wait for instructions and obey all instructions you are given.
  • Don’t be upset if a rescuer isn’t sure whether you are a terrorist or hostage. Even if you are handcuffed and searched, do not resist. Just wait for the confusion to clear.

Note:

For the CAC course (Conduct after Capture) contact ABP World Group. The objective of this course is to better prepare civilians for a kidnap/hostage situation and improve their chances of getting home alive.

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Mexico’s kidnapping nightmare


In 2008, a thousand people were kidnapped in Mexico according to official data, though the real figure is claimed to be at least three times more, and the phenomenon is increasing dramatically.

Three years ago, Hugo Wallace was kidnapped. Kidnappers wanted his money so they led him into a trap and killed him.

And Hugo Wallace is not an isolated case. In Mexico, kidnapping is big business. As France and Mexico negotiate the case of Florence Cassez, a French woman convicted of kidnapping, FRANCE 24 takes you to a country were over a thousand were kidnapped last year.

In Mexico, a country rife with corruption, our reporters met the victims as well as the authorities who are meant to be fighting this plague. Families who have a lost a member to kdinapping assaults must cope with an inefficient and sometimes complicit police.

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