Archive for the ‘Kidnapped’ Category

Kidnapped 4 – Immediate Response

Monday, August 6th, 2007

Having put the phone down to O’Hara, I was spitting bullets. I had more than just a few questions and these made me feel very uneasy as to how this thing was going to end. For starters, If JR was alone how did O’Hara know how many men had snatched him? How did he know he had been taken by boat and so on and so forth, why was he so het up about the kidnap insurance. I had bad vibes about this geezer and I just could not trust him. Never ignore that initial gut feeling.

However those feeling and misgivings would have to wait, I needed to get a few practical things sorted pdq. Time is not on your side and you just cannot do everything yourself. You need to get a team together quickly. A response is not just the blokes on the ground, but the support team back at home. Somebody needs to make travel arrangements, someone else needs to do background research and monitor developments and then there is the need to communicate all relevant information as it becomes available. For the whole thing to work you need to have someone who will think on his feet remain detached and calm and who you can trust implicitly. This man will assume operational control and become office manager. I use Cyclops.

Cyclops is an ex Royal Marine called Andy. He joined the Police after leaving the services and became a detective. Unfortunately, he lost an eye in a car accident and was medically retired – hence the snappy nickname. Cyclops has both military and civilian police experience and shed loads of savey. He also has and very good way with people and has an eye for the ladies. Importantly he is used to the administration that goes with running an operation or investigation. Just what I need.
I rang Cyclops and explained the situation. He and JR were Green Death together and go back a long time. He did not need asking twice. He got stuck into ringing round to see just who was available for a quick trip away to somewhere exotic and hot. If we cannot get a good team together there was fuck all point in going. We needed blokes with African experience and who were well up to the environment we were headed into as much as the task we were undertaking. Its horses for courses, there are some top lads available, but if they sun burn easily or cant stand the high temperatures they would be as useful as a chocolate tea pot.
No2 on my list of things to do was to see if JR, was carrying any tracking devices. There are a variety of devices available which either use GPS via mobile phones or satellite tracking.I checked through my records and found that indeed JR did have a mobile phone tracking service and a worldwide sat tracker. The question now was did he still have them with him and had he activated the sat track? Of course he was going to be searched by his abductors and they would half inch his dog and bone. The sat tracker though would confuse them – I hoped and they would not know what it was. To look at it looks a bit like a pager or bleeper and has three buttons. The chances are that the kidnappers would trash this if they found it or just thow it away, but at least it would give us a lead as to where to look. Of course good old O’Hara had told us that JR had been taken by boat so that would have given us a starter.

The sat trackers work with a variety of mapping services. In this case JR’s service used an online mapping service and eventually we got a location. How accurate that was would remained to be seen but it was a start. Of course the naughty little tykes might just move him, although I doubted it. Anyway, from what I could see, it would seem about 4 miles along the river from where JR was snatched and near to a little village. However bearing in mind the yucky nature of the terrain in that neck of woods I did not expect to amble up and just find the camp signposted.

My next job was to see if our “Tom Cook” or travel man could sort us flights and visas and stuff at such short notice. It was a quick call and I gave him a rough cover story we would use. In a lot of cases we would arrive at different times from different locations if possible, but in this case our cover story would enable us to arrive together. He said he didn’t think there would be a problem and that he should be able to have everything in place in 3 days max, but he would ring me first thing in the morning for names and other details.

Cyclops rang me back after about an hour or so. We had a team. He ran through the names and we had eight really sound blokes and it was very much a first team. We have all known each other a long time. We have all been held at some time and so all had a sense of what was involved in getting JR back safe and sound. My experience in Z of course was is till fairly fresh in my mind.
Next thing to think about was kit and how we were going to deal with this matter. Time to sit an contemplate in the only room one can shit and contemplate such big jobs. The kidnappers used to be a ramshackle bunch of bone heads armed with clubs and machettes. Now they are fairly well organised and would be well armed no doubt with the good old AK47. In Africa using an AK47 is childs play.
So how were we going to do this and what were we going to use. One has to be discreet, especially in our line of work! One tends to find officials are a might touchy about nine blokes turning up anywhere let alone an African country with suitcases full of guns and grenades. Simon Mann and his chaps who are currently held in Zimbabwe know all about that. Of course, there are ways of acquiring fire power locally, but the more people you speak to the better the chances of attracting unwarranted attention. However there is more than one way to skin a cat and I had a rough idea as to how to deal with this problem.
Although a little late in the day, it was time to head to my storage facility in Wandsworth to see what Uncle Norman had that might just be handy.

Kidnapped 3 – The Call

Friday, August 3rd, 2007

The phone rang at about 8pm and when I answered it there was a sort of click and echo indicating a long distance call before a smooth American accent started taking

“Hello is that Uncle Norman?”

“Yes it is”

“Hi my name is O’Hara, and represent XXXX petroleum in N”

“Yes, what can I do for you Mr O’Hara?” I said

“Well sir, I am afraid there has been an incident involving your nephew JR”

“What kind of incident?”

“He has been abducted by insurgents and we believe he is being held hostage somewhere along the river delta”

“What happened?” I asked

“Well sit he was travelling alone at about 5pm local time when he stopped at the scene of an accident near the river. When he got out of the car he was grabbed at gun point by five men and forced into a RIB, that’s a sort of inflatable boat with an outboard motor, and taken down the river.”

I know what a RIB is but thought it best not to say anything.

“I see and what is the situation now then Mr O’Hara?”

“Well sir, according to JR’s HR file, we have been in instructed to contract you in the event of an emergency which is the purpose of this call and we are waiting to hear from the abductors. Usually they make a financial demand and we go from there”

“Who is dealing with it at your end?”

“What do you mean?” He asked with a slightly bemused tone.

“I presume that you have a hostage negotiation team on your books to deal with these occurrences”

“That’s me sir, I am authorised by the company to deal with the kidnappers. Usually they make an initial financial demand and we see what we can do. Look sir, these kidnapping are nothing personal or political they are just after a quick buck. But I have to ask you, does your nephew have kidnap insurance?”

“I don’t know Mr O’Hara, I would have thought, that you as his employer, would know that especially if you have access to his HR file?”

“Yes well err we have not really had time to look at all our records. What I need to know is could you as his family put up any money quickly if a demand is made” He stuttered.

“What sort of sum are we talking about?” I asked

“That depends, sometimes it is small other times it is quite a bit” Nothing like being specific I thought.

“Mr Norman how much money do you think you could come up with in a short period of time” He continued

“I don’t rightly know five thousand dollars maybe”

“Is that all?” He sort of gasped an air of indignation in his voice

“Look Mr O’Hara you aren’t being very helpful here. You know the local market place and going rate and I am asking you for guidance. I could probably raise more but to be honest I am not inclined to to go in too high.”

“Oh yeah, right I can see your point. Look, I am sorry if I have been vague, but we have to deal with each situation on its individual merit” He said in placating manner.

“Tell me Mr O’Hara, how long do these people keep hostages before making a demand and if the demands are met how long before the captive is released.”

“The demands are usually made after 36 to 48 hours and if the we pay it takes about 5 days to get everything sorted and the captive released. Sometimes, it takes longer if the case is more complicated” he said.

“How can it be more complicated” I asked

“Well sometimes the people are more important and worth more, sometimes they have insurance and we need to deal with the insurance companies and obviously in these cases there is more negotiation and so it takes more time”

“I see, Ok Mr O’Hara I will give it 12 hours and if he has not been released I will come to N and see what needs to be done”

“WHAT” O’Hara almost yelled down the phone “Why do you want to do that, there is no need, it is a very dangerous situation and your nephew could get hurt and the climate is really bad and…”

“Mr O’Hara, if you expect me to just stump up a load of money and send it to N on your say so you are sadly mistaken. If JR needs help then I will do everything to facilitate his safe release. I think it will be easier if I am there and can be guided by you, after all this is your ball game” I reassured him.

You could hear him relax and his breathing became more normal.

“Oh OK, right, I see, I just didn’t want you getting all stressed out in a foreign country that’s all” he said

“I appreciate that Mr O’Hara but I would prefer it if I was there, you know just to see how things pan out and I can have arrangements in place for a reasonable sum to be available which can be transferred without delay if I am there”

“Well Ok that’s you prerogative” he drawled in a much more relaxed mode.

“Mr O’Hara I hear what you are saying and I will not do anything immediately. I will give it 24 hours and maybe the situation will have started to have resolved itself by then” I said
“OK that would be better I think. So am I right in thinking you could access more than 5K”

“Yes I could”

“Thats great, that gives me more to play with. Ok look I will wait to hear from the kidnappers and you are going to wait 24 hours before arranging to come over but you could get money transferred here sooner if needs be” He confirmed in a far to casual and relaxed manner for my liking
“Yes, but bear in mind that I could make any financial arrangements until tomorrow morning and I would need to sort flights and stuff, so it may actually be a bit longer”

“Ok then Mr Norman I will talk to you soon then” He hung up
Sooner than you think fuck head.

Kidnapped 2 – Basic Advice on Prevention

Wednesday, August 1st, 2007

There are a few very basic procedures you can adopt do to avoid getting into trouble generally, but these are essential if you want to reduce the risk of being kidnapped when travelling or working anywhere a little dodgy.

More people create problems for themselves in life simply by being too flash. Any security advisor worth his salt will tell you that appearing conspicuously wealthy in a poor area will attract trouble like flies to a cow pat. Bearing in mind that wealth is always relative, just bear in mind that you don’t have to leave your home country to cause yourself problems by not taking this little gen of advice!

Much of the advice for staying safe revolves around moving from A to B, as this is the time when you are most vulnerable and thus when you are more likely to be snatched.

Here are a few billy basic tips.

Lower your profile, so you don’t stand out. Don’t go round in big shiny vehicles – muddy them up, and get local plates if you can. If you are David Beckham employ loads of bodyguards and hope that they are up to the job. Big bloke does not mean good bloke.

Try to time your approach to traffic lights so you don’t have to actually stop. Easier said than done a lot of the time I know but…..
If you do have to stop always keep enough space between vehicles, so that you are never “sandwiched” between two cars and cannot escape. Apart from anything else it is good road craft. Just remember if you can see the wheels of the car in front of you then you have enough space to manoeuvre round them and get out of trouble should you need to.

Do not stop at accidents unless you are in an area with lots of people. I know this sounds harsh and sad but by friend “in need” can vouch for this piece of advice.

Do not allow patterns to creep into your daily life even more so when living in risky areas. It is easy to not realise how many patterns or routines we get into – you get up, have some toast a shower and leave the house at the same time. Bingo, before you know it your life is 90% the same. Apart from not being good for your mental well being it can create a security risk in some circumstances.

Avoid leaving home or the office at the same time each day and vary your routes are just a few basic common-sense pointers.

Taxis are often quoted as a potential personal security risk for very good reason. This applies to women on their own as well as for travellers abroad. Always use a legitimate company, and try to avoid travelling from airports in the middle of the night and never get into a car with more than one person. Yeah, I know there are romantic comedies where bloke shares cab in NY with woman and they fall in love blah blah, but that’s make believe and I am afraid I am talking about real life. Sorry.

If you are in a taxi and the driver wants to take someone else or another person gets in uninvited, you might have to be very un-British by making a fuss. If the driver stops to let someone in, you should get out, pronto, I mean fuck it, you are in charge of your personal safety in these places and if the cabby doesn’t like it, well, that’s his tough shit.

WHAT IF……..?

If the worst happens and you are snatched, the most dangerous moment will be the “hit” or the “ambush” or if a rescue is mounted. It will come as no surprise to anyone, but this is when everyone especially the baddies are filled with stress and fear. People do daft things under stress.
At that moment your best and only option is to just go along with it and not try to run or fight. Best to be a live coward than a dead hero. Keep your savey and stay a live, try to be a hero and stay dead the choice is yours.

Avoid becoming a statistic by just being well aware of the risks – no matter how experienced a traveller one is, this is the best tool to possess against kidnapping. Please always bear in mind that if someone really wants to get you they probably will.

However often the kidnappers won’t necessarily want you personally, it is nothing personal, they are just going for the easiest target.

Even as you reading his article, someone is sitting in camp somewhere saying ‘right oh lads, we need to abduct someone”

Don’t let it be you.

Kidnapped No 1 – Introduction

Tuesday, July 31st, 2007

The papers have had a good run of stories about abductions just recently. There is the ongoing situation of the security people in Iraq, but the seizure of a three-year-old British girl in Nigeria a couple of weeks ago brought the issue of the kidnapping of ordinary expatriates abroad into the news. But you know there are so many kidnappings that just don’t make your papers. I often wonder why one case is such a big news thing and then others are ignored.

The vast majority of kidnaps are carried out purely for cash and even where there are political motives for the kidnap, money will often change hands at the end of the day. Its Ok for world leaders to talk bravely about not negotiating with terrorists or kidnappers but it is not them that is at risk, so paying up is often a very cheap resolution. Of course you can end a kidnapping by force but that can be costly in human terms as well as financial.
Kidnaps have increased by about 70% in the last eight years. About 40% of those are company employees, 28% are “wealthy people” and the rest are usually just good old family feuds, drugs wars or plain criminality. Not many world leaders feature among those figures!

Obtaining reliable figures on the number and type of kidnappings across the world is almost impossible. Kidnap resolution is a very skilled and specific task. Acquaintances of mine in the field tell me that they reckon that up to 90% of all abductions go unreported.

The top seven places for the threat of kidnap are:

1: Iraq

2: Nigeria

3: Haiti

4: Colombia/Mexico

5: Ecuador

6: Venezuela

7: Philippines

One security firm publishes a monthly kidnap monitor drawn from media reports. Their report for June 2007 runs to 26 pages and details kidnapping incidents and updates Kenya, Nigeria, Afghanistan, Australia, China, India, Russia, Pakistan, the Philippines, Italy, Turkey, Iraq, the US, Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras, Venezuela and Peru.

As a result of the rising threat, firms are spending increasing amounts of money on insuring against kidnap and ransom plus they are giving some training and briefing when deploying staff to risky countries.

Whilst it is true to say that in many areas, such as Mexico, middle-class locals are more at risk than foreigners, many firms still don’t take the risks to expats seriously enough.

At the moment Nigeria is probably the biggest hot spot. The trouble is that the government has withdrawn troops from the oil rich Bakassi Peninsula because of its border dispute with Cameroon. This coupled with organised crime plus inter faith conflict means that the area is not as safe as it might be. In fact I read somewhere that 25% of Nigeria’s oil producing capacity is lost because of the problem at the moment.

However, just every now and then, the bandits fuck up big time and kidnap somebody with friends or uncles.