Article June 15, 2018

Recent K&R incidents

SOMALIA (Country Risk Rating: Extreme) – German National Working for Aid Group Kidnapped in Mogadishu Unidentified gunmen kidnapped a German national working as a nurse for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Mogadishu at approximately 20:00 May 2. The foreign national was reportedly abducted from an ICRC compound; her whereabouts remain unknown.

Analysis: No group immediately claimed responsibility for the incident, but the Islamist militant group, Al-Shabaab, or its sympathisers, could be behind the kidnapping. The threat to personal safety is high in Mogadishu and areas outside the capital where the militant group is active. The group has previously kidnapped foreign nationals in Somalia, though incidents have become rare in recent years.

AFGHANISTAN (Country Risk Rating: Extreme) – Militants Kidnap Six Indian Nationals and Afghan Driver in Baghlan Province

Suspected militants kidnapped at least six Indian nationals and their Afghan driver in the Bagh-e-Shamal area of the Baghlan provincial capital, Pul-e-Khomre, the morning of May 6. Baghlan police say the engineers were travelling to a power substation when the attack occurred. No group has claimed responsibility for abductions, but local officials have accused the Taliban of carrying out the kidnapping.

Analysis: The threat of kidnapping remains very high across Afghanistan. While the threat is generally lower in urban areas, where security is arguably better, such incidents still occur. Criminal organisations and insurgent groups have kidnapped both foreign nationals and Afghans. Groups may conduct kidnappings for ransom or to negotiate the release of captive militants. The latest abductions highlight the danger for foreign nationals operating in Afghanistan, especially those working on notable infrastructure projects. The Indian government estimates that more than 150 Indian nationals are working on such projects in Afghanistan.

CANADA (Country Risk Rating: Low) – High-profile Virtual Kidnapping Incident Reported in Montreal

Unidentified suspects extorted a female student through the use of a virtual kidnapping scheme in Montreal, May 16. The perpetrators phoned the victim, a student at McGill University, and convinced her that she had been implicated in an organised crime ring and the only way to avoid being prosecuted was to comply with their demands. The victim was tricked into tying herself up and taking photographs of herself in distress; she was then told to remain in an unspecified hotel room. The suspects subsequently used the images to extort the victim’s mother in Oshawa, located approximately 489 km (303 miles) from Montreal, after contacting the victim’s relative using a mobile chat application. The victim’s mother is believed to have made a USD-200,000 wire-transfer ransom payment to an unknown bank account. Police forces located the victim unharmed at the hotel later the same day.

Analysis: The virtual kidnapping extortion technique has become more prevalent in North America in recent years and cases of this nature continue to be reported. The ransom amount extorted in this case is notable as criminals involved in this form of extortion tend to demand small ransom payments that are harder for authorities to trace and easier for victims to pay at short notice. In light of the large ransom demand and the modus operandi employed by the criminals, the kidnapping required more sophisticated techniques and coordination, who are likely to have taken out preliminary investigations prior to initiating the scheme and selecting a potential victim.

Criminal organisations have increasingly resorted to committing virtual kidnappings as they do not require the geographical proximity or resources of traditional kidnapping, and have developed more sophisticated methods of doing so. Other notable incidents of this nature have occurred in Canada in recent weeks.