In today’s modern world, there is insurance for almost everything.
Any kind of “Risk” is big business, and therefore there is a lot of profit to be made – that’s the reality.
So, it goes without saying that there is even insurance for kidnap and ransom (K&R).
If you’re travelling to today’s hostile environments as an International actor, anywhere from Mexico to Afghanistan, and all the bad places in between, it would be madness to go without K&R insurance coverage, especially as it helps to reduce your overall insurance costs of travelling to these places.
But, will it guarantee your safety, and will it get you immediately released if the worst happens?
Also, just who are the winners and losers in a kidnap and ransom situation of an International individual or grouping, foreign to that country?
For decades now, I’ve both taught and guided individuals around hostile environments. Right from the very beginning, I’ve railed against ransoms being paid for hostages, but what if I was the hostage that had been kidnapped?
Years ago, I told my wife that if it ever happened to me, don’t get involved. I will either escape early on or continue to attempt to escape. I may get killed, as this scenario is extremely delicate and dangerous.
Or the special forces may come and initiate my release and kill or capture the hostage-takers. But on no account have anyone ever pay a ransom on my behalf.
Why Paying a Ransom Should be the Last Resort
For every ransom paid, you’re encouraging further kidnappings for the same result and so on. I’ve always been against paying ransoms for that reason alone; therefore, I could hardly go along with the idea if it was myself who was the individual kidnapped.
Of course, it’s a whole different ball game if the kidnapping is not about money, but about say a prisoner swap instead. Even so, I would expect the same scenario as mentioned – no swap. The same circumstances apply to not paying ransoms and for the same reasons mentioned.
Even for highly trained special forces, attempting a release is extremely high-risk for all involved. But I have faith; it’s what they’re trained for and their successful assault is the best result, but note again, it is incredibly high-risk, as past incidents in recent times have proven.
But even paying a ransom is a high risk too. It’s all a game of smoke and mirrors. Just who exactly are you playing with? Who is really on your side, and who is playing along with the kidnappers? There’s also a game called double-dipping, where once the ransom is paid, they come back and ask for more. So even paying a ransom is sometimes no guarantee of a released hostage.
Another complexity is the multitude of actors involved in these situations. It might surprise you to learn just how many different agencies can be involved in these situations.
Main Actors Involved in K&R Situations
I was once involved in a K&R scenario in a hostile environment that went on and on. Days quickly turned into weeks and then into months. Without giving away anything key to securing future releases, some of the main actors you’d expect to encounter are:
What an organisation for just one hostage! That’s an awful lot of people, many of whom are putting their lives in harm’s way for the hostage.
Well, sadly, it’s not an organisation. All these agencies have their own agendas and that can contribute towards a lot of conflict.
Managing Conflicting Agendas
The company who represents the hostage may want the ransom paid, and ASAP. And I’m sure that in most cases, so would the family of the hostage. The government of the hostage may be against paying the ransom however; countries such as the USA and the UK, allegedly. They would prefer the SF team to rescue the hostage successfully with no ransom paid, and the hostage-takers (seen as terrorists) eliminated. That would send a message to future hostage-takers that there will be no ransom paid, only death or capture for the hostage-takers. However, the host nation may have other ideas. They perhaps would not want either the ransom paid, or the SF rescue team deployed. They may have their own way of dealing with it.
So, the longer it goes on, the longer these actors are hatching their plans, the more riled the kidnappers are becoming, the more danger the hostage is in. Whose plan will be instigated first?
There may be more than 100 individuals involved, all with their own outcomes in mind – remember, all just for a single hostage!
In the last 20 years, there have been many K&R scenarios. Many have had a successful hostage release with no ransom paid. Many have actually been released with a ransom paid. And many have gone very wrong, where the hostage’s have been killed.
In the overview example, I’ve given, the outcome was successfully dealt with by a cunning plan devised by the host country’s security and intelligence agency. No ransom was paid, and the hostage was set free in pretty much one piece, at least physically anyway, with the kidnappers arrested. It wouldn’t be appropriate for me to discuss the details of their plan, for obvious reasons, but needless to say, it was an absolute belter.
As I write this, the world isn’t getting any safer. If you’re an individual about to go into a hostile environment as a foreign actor, or if you know someone who is about to go, or indeed, if you’re managing someone about to go, then please share this article with all involved, so that they can appreciate what goes into a K&R event involving just one individual. Then put everything in place proactively to ensure that the chances of a kidnap for ransom situation occurring are as low as they realistically can be, given the complexities of operating on the ground in some of today’s hostile environments.
The result of who wins and who loses in this type of scenario is sadly down to those groupings on the ground who get their act together first and are bold enough to put their cunning plan into action. The result of all these different agencies striving for different outcomes means that they will never wholly work together. Therefore, understand that in K&R situations, the goal may not always be the safe and straightforward release of the hostage.
The ideal scenario is that you don’t leave yourself vulnerable to kidnapping in the first place!
Kidnap & Ransom – Finding a Resolution
By: Bob Shepherd
Bestselling author Bob Shepherd has spent nearly forty years operating in conflict areas around the world. A twenty-year veteran of Britain’s elite 22 SAS Regiment with nearly two decades of private security work to his credit, Bob has successfully negotiated some of the most dangerous places on earth as a special forces soldier and a private citizen. Bob comments regularly on security issues and has appeared on CNN International, BBC, SKY News, and BBC Radio. He has also authored numerous articles and books including the Sunday Times Top Ten bestseller The Circuit. In addition to writing and lecturing, Bob continues to advise individuals operating in hostile environments. For more of his insights on security and geopolitics visit www.bobshepherdauthor.com