“K” is For Kidnapping in These 35 Countries

Posted on May 17, 2019

On April 9, 2019, the US State Department announced a new indicator to highlight the risk of kidnapping and hostage-taking in 35 countries. These travel alerts are now issued with a “K”. The update is part of the Department’s ongoing efforts to provide information about international safety and security for US citizens who travel, live, and work abroad.

According to the State Department, the definition of kidnapping in terms of travel advisories refers to criminals/terrorists/groups who threaten to and/or seize or detain and threaten to kill, injure, or continue to detain individuals in order to compel a third party (like your organization) to do something (often pay a ransom) as a condition of release.

The following 35 countries have been updated to include the "K" indicator for the risk of kidnapping and/or hostage taking:

  1. Afghanistan
  2. Algeria
  3. Angola
  4. Bangladesh
  5. Burkina Faso
  6. Cameroon
  7. Central African Republic
  8. Colombia
  9. Democratic Republic of the Congo
  10. Ethiopia
  11. Haiti
  12. Iran
  13. Iraq
  14. Kenya
  15. Lebanon
  16. Libya
  17. Malaysia
  18. Mali
  19. Mexico
  20. Niger
  21. Nigeria
  22. Pakistan
  23. Papua New Guinea
  24. Philippines
  25. Russian Federation
  26. Somalia
  27. South Sudan
  28. Sudan
  29. Syria
  30. Trinidad and Tobago
  31. Turkey
  32. Uganda
  33. Ukraine (in Russian-controlled eastern Ukraine)
  34. Venezuela
  35. Yemen

In high net worth kidnappings, the intended targets are generally studied for a period of time prior to the actual kidnappings, allowing the criminals to gather intelligence on security procedures and personal habits. After the victims have been taken, often their employers or families are contacted with the ransom demand. More common forms of kidnapping take very little preparation and often carry a low risk of failure. These kidnappers target everyday business people who are presumed to have money or connections. Express kidnapping is a method of abduction where a small immediate ransom is demanded, often by the victims being forced to withdraw money from their ATM account. American citizens are kidnapped for a variety of reasons. Some criminals are looking for a fast, easy payoff. Terrorists might be looking for money, the exchange of prisoners, a change in policy, or to gain propaganda.

The new "K" indicator came just a few days after the kidnapping of US tourist Kimberly Sue Endicott and her guide, Jean Paul, in Uganda by captors who demanded a $500,000 ransom. 

Here are some general kidnapping mitigation tips, according to the Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC), which was created in 1985 under the Federal Advisory Committee Act to promote security cooperation between American private sector interests worldwide and the US Department of State.

  • If kidnapped, do not act overly defiant towards your captors, but be mindful to avoid giving them information that could be used against you.
  • Try to keep a low profile, especially in locations known to have a kidnapping threat.
  • Always inform someone, such as a concierge, coworker, or friend of where you are going and what time you expect to return.
  • If using locally hired security, drivers, or guides, ensure that they are from a well vetted and accredited organization, as criminal or extremist groups have paid local guides to cooperate with them in order to kidnap
  • If possible, do not drive alone or on rural and unpopulated roads after sunset in areas known to have a high risk of kidnapping.
  • Always use licensed taxis when in a city. Check to make sure that 1) the meter is present and functional and 2) the driver matches the ID on the taxi registration sticker. Some areas have seen an increased use from rideshare applications with features such as driver reviews and background checks as well as the ability to “share” your ride’s progress with friends and family; these features can provide travelers with a more secure method of public transportation. If unsure about the security of your ride, trust your instincts and simply wait for another taxi.
  • Avoid being predictable while abroad, and stay in locations with adequate security measures.
  • Those most at risk for kidnapping are travelers who are staying in remote areas such as aid workers or those who routinely travel the same route (such as to and from a compound).

Real-time communication between corporations and employees working abroad is essential, particularly in worst-case crises like kidnapping. Features like traveler tracking and position reporting, position-based alerting, geo-fencing, and a distress signal all make up a great travel risk management plan, which is why many global organizations turn to NC4. Contact us today at 877-624-4999 to learn how we can help satisfy your Duty of Care obligations and create an excellent travel risk management plan that works for you.

“K” is for Keep Your Employees Safe!

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