Kidnap ransoms are 'fuelling terrorism', warns Foreign Office

Millions of dollars of ransoms said to be spent on weapons, travel and training camps for terrorists

LAST UPDATED AT 10:07 ON Fri 13 Dec 2013

RANSOM payments made to kidnappers are "fuelling terrorism", the UK Foreign Office has warned.

Senior foreign office officials believe that more than $60m has been paid in terrorist ransoms in the last five years, with kidnappings on the rise in Syria, Yemen, Nigeria and Northwest Africa. The going rate has also grown from $4m per hostage in the Sahara in 2010, to well over $5m today.

The G8 countries agreed in June not to pay ransoms to kidnappers, but the agreement does not appear to be holding, says BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner.

He says the al-Qaeda franchise – al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) – which nearly took over the whole of Mali this year has "grown rich on ransoms paid for Spanish, Swiss and Italian hostages".

In the north of Mali, French forces entered caves abandoned by jihadist fighters and found a letter from the regional al-Qaeda commander to his counterpart in Yemen, in which he declared that "most of the battle costs were met by spoil from the hostages".

Meanwhile, al-Qaeda's franchise in Yemen is believed to have taken a delivery of $22m in cash in exchange for Swiss, Austrian and Finnish hostages just six weeks before a terror alert closed the US and UK embassies in the country in August. The money was allegedly delivered by intermediaries from a nearby Gulf Arab country.

Aimen Deen, from security consultants Five Dimensions, says the money is spent on weapons, training camps, travel costs and rent for apartments in other countries.

The British government has had a policy dating back to the 1970s of not making any substantive concessions to kidnappers because it believes it only encourages more hostage-taking.

Speaking on Radio 4, Christopher Voss, the former lead negotiator for the FBI’s international kidnapping response team, said that only the US, the UK and Canada refrained from paying ransoms.

The Foreign Office says it is not looking to point the blame at specific countries, but Gardner says it is "clearly frustrated".

He adds that Western governments are "all too aware of how unpopular it is domestically to have their citizens paraded on hostage videos on the internet with a gun to their heads, and few have the stomach to tough it out". · 

Disqus - noscript

...perhaps. But should we not reconsider our foreign policy? we have made more than enough enemies in these unstable moslem countries by blindly following the policies of the United States over the past decades, under the naive impression that our national interests coincide on such matters - they DON'T!!

At the drop of a hat, and whenever it has been deemed to be in the narrow national interests of the United States, former "allies" have been sidelined (latterly, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States and Israel, for example).

That, of course, is realpolitik - but Western nationals are generally grouped in the one category by al Quaeda and its fellow-travellers - ie that of being broadly sympathetic to the United States in its global ambitions, or, at least, being seen to be benefitting from the US foreign policy stance in some form or another - fallacious as that understanding might be on occasion.

So - while William Hague et al might posture about "non-negotiation", the common stances of the US, the UK and Canada have not eradicated kidnapping of their subjects by terrorists - time, perhaps, to adjust foreign policy?

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