Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Kidnappings and a History of Failure | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Among the latest victims of a wave of kidnappings across the Arab world, five German tourists boarded a Lufthansa airplane back to their country, before having a chance to complete their visit to Yemen. They fell victim to a tribe who sought to strike a deal with government by snatching them in broad daylight. A British aid worker and her parents met the same fate in Rafah on the hands of a Palestinian group that wanted to compromise with the Authority. As for Baghdad and its suburb, they are now considered to be the center of kidnapping which does not spare old or young. In most cases, the hostages, or even their corpses, do not return to their families. The victims are unarmed civilians and champions of Iraq, such as the French engineer, or simple workers, as was the case of the Jordanian driver, or even unfortunate individuals, such as the Sudanese who thought they didn’t require protection because their political views would defend them.

Kidnapping is the most futile weapon ever used; it has become the pursuit of losers. Throughout the years, kidnappers have failed, with the possible exception of the infamous hostage taking of 11 Oil Ministers at an OPEC meeting in Vienna in 1975. The perpetrators succeeded in obtaining a ransom but later paid a heavy price by either being imprisoned or killed.

Throughout history, kidnapping has been shown to be a self-defeating weapon when compared to other means of terror, threat and compromise. Iraq is a prime example. Public opinion has turned against the kidnappers, including those who seized hostages in the name of the Iraqi people or the resistance. Extremists have lost all popular support as a result. Car bombs and suicide attacks also proved counter effective and destroy the case of those responsible; they have become the enemies of Iraqi society. Al Qaeda’s leader Ayman al Zawahiri warned his representative in Iraq, Abu Musab al Zarqawi, of the foolishness of kidnapping and terrorist attacks because they decrease public support. As for the general public, they are now convinced that kidnappers are cowards who fear coming face to face with their enemies and so resort kidnapping innocent people or bombing unguarded civilian locations. Where is the heroism in kidnapping an old woman or in bombing a school or a hospital? Why don’t the perpetrators confront the US bases in Iraq or the Palestinian security services in Gaza or Sanaa?

According to an Indonesia security official, intercepted communication between kidnappers revealed they have modified their strategy from bombing to hostage-taking. He indicated that extremists lacked the financial resources to carry out a terrorist attack and, therefore, had opted to resort to kidnapping as a form of blackmail to fund their operations. This is why he underlined the principal of non-negotiation because it will put an end to kidnapping, once hostage-takers realize their actions are worthless.