Risk In Africa And Other Regions Calls For Reexamination Of Executive Security

An American citizen, who had been kidnapped from his home in southern Niger, has been rescued by commandos from the Navy's elite SEAL Team 6. The 27-year-old American was rescued from neighboring northern Nigeria where he had been taken by his captors. Their location was discovered by tracking their cell phones.

A Pentagon spokesman said, "U.S. forces conducted a hostage rescue operation during the early hours of 31 Oct. in northern Nigeria to recover an American citizen held hostage by a group of armed men," and that the victim "is safe and is now in the care of the U.S. Department of State." Another official said that the victim had been taken to an American airbase in Niamey, Niger's capital, to reunite with his family. No American military personnel were injured during the operation, but all but one of the captors were killed in the raid, with one escaping. The victim was not injured in the firefight.

The American is the son of missionaries and lives with his wife and young daughter on a farm near Massalata, a small village close to the border with Nigeria. American and Nigerien officials had said that he was seized from his backyard a few days earlier in front of family members after armed assailants asked him for money. He offered them $40 and was then taken away by the gunmen on motorbikes, the officials said. The captors demanded nearly one million dollars in ransom for his release.

One American official said the assailants were criminals who intended to sell the victim to terrorist groups in the region. The operation was organized quickly with the assistance of officials in Niger and Nigeria. "Navy Commandos Rescue American Kidnapped in Niger" www.nytimes.com (Oct. 31, 2020).



Observers note that this kidnapping is the latest example of increasing violence in Africa’s Sahel region, which has experienced a growing number of attacks by Islamic State and Al Qaeda affiliates, especially in Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger.

Six French aid workers and their Nigerien guide were killed by Islamic extremists in August while visiting a wildlife park near Niamey, Niger. An ambush in October 2017 near Niger’s border with Mali left four American soldiers dead.

Multinational organizations should have contingency plans in place in the event their corporate personnel or key officers are suddenly unable to function in their positions, either because of death or kidnapping.

Some things to consider include a frank assessment of the degree of risk specific to the area and the type of threat that your employees might face. By being aware of the type of extortions that may occur and the likely perpetrators, you can take measures to reduce the risk and start putting together an incident response plan.

Consider whether local law enforcement could assist during an incident, and if possible, which specific people to approach in advance of deploying employees or contractors into especially risky areas. In this regard, private specialist response companies or U.S. law enforcement agencies may be of great assistance and can assist you during the assessment process.

Finally, experts say what happens in the first few minutes of a kidnapping attempt can make the difference between a good outcome (for you or your employees) and tragedy. Kidnappings rarely succeed if the victim runs away or reacts in an unexpected way. Nevertheless, most people would not know what to do. Training yourself and your employees on how to handle themselves in these situations should be a priority. There are “kidnapping” camps available, which are designed to train likely kidnap targets how to reduce kidnapping risks and increase kidnapping survival rates.

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