Do everything in your power proactively to not become a kidnap victim.
In today’s modern world, there is insurance for almost everything.
All kinds of “Risk” is really big business, and therefore there is lots of profit to be made…yes, 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 keep your overall insurance costs of travelling to these places down.
But is it a guarantee to your safety, and will it get you immediately released?
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.
Because 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, just like no paid ransom for the same reasons mentioned.
Even our special forces teams 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’s extremely high risk, as past incidents in recent times have proven.
But even paying a ransom is high risk too. It’s all really 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.
There are many other actors in the game too.
I was once involved in a K&R scenario in a hostile environment that went on for days, into weeks then into months.
Many actors involved, so here are some of the main ones:
Without giving away anything key to securing future releases, there was the obvious hostage, and the kidnapping team. The management team of the commercial company that represents the hostage. Then in comes the hostage negotiating team, on behalf of the commercial company that represents the hostage, a commercial security company with K&R experienced operatives. The Embassy staff of the country that the hostage belongs to. The local government of the host country. The security services of the host country. The security services of the country that the hostage comes from. Maybe even the security services of Allie countries to the host country or/and the hostage’s country. The special forces hostage rescue team…or teams if it’s multiple countries.
What an organisation for just one hostage! That’s an awful lot of people, many of whom are putting their life in harms way for the hostage.
Well, sadly it’s not an organisation…because they all have their own individual 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 for ransoms…like the USA and the UK…supposedly. They would therefore prefer the SF team to successfully rescue the hostage 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. 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?
Over 100 individuals involved with their own outcomes in mind for 1 hostage.
In the last 20 years there have been many 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 oh so very wrong, and 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. I’m not willing to release information as to 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 you know someone who is about to go. Or indeed you’re managing someone about to go…then please read this post, then pass it on to all involved. Just so that you learn to appreciate just what goes into a K&R event involving just one individual. Then put everything in place proactively to ensure that the chances of that individual being kidnapped for ransom is as low as it realistically can be, given the complexities of operating on the ground in some of today’s hostile environments.
The end result of who wins and who loses in this type of scenario, is sadly down to those groupings on the ground who have their act together first, and are bold enough to put their cunning plan into action. Because with wanting various outcomes, you can see clearly just why those groupings will never ever work completely together. So, is it really just all about releasing the hostage safely?
The ideal scenario is that you don’t leave yourself vulnerable to kidnapping in the first place.

Published by: bobshepherdauthor

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

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