Al Qaeda Kidnap Threat By David S. Katz, CEO, Global Security Group, Inc. Recently, the mainstream media has reported that a variety of law enforcement and intelligence sources suggest there is credible evidence that Al Qaeda may be attempting to kidnap American citizens abroad. According to these reports, they will attempt to use American kidnap victims in order to barter their lives for the release of Al Qaeda operatives being held at Guantanamo bay and elsewhere. This concept is cetainly not without precedent and follows the recent conclusion of a prisoner swap between Israel and Hezbollah. This threat, while seemingly credible, has not yet entered the conciousness of most American corporations with substantial numbers of employees either traveling or resdient abroad. Most American businessmen and women continue to travel and live overseas without taking even the most basic of security precautions. There are many additional complications and dangers attendent to this recent Al Qaeda threat. As most of us realize, it is the policy of the United States not to negotiate with terrorists. In situations involving kidnapping, the goal of the kidnappers is to induce some action on the part of the victims family, company or government. In simple criminal kidnap cases, the motive is most frequently financial. The victim’s safe return has a demanded price. Each year, American and western corporations pay millions of dollars in ransom to such criminal groups holding their employees. I personally know several companies that maintain quantities of cash on hand to use to pay ransom demands if it becomes necessary. How will this traditional dynamic change in the event US citizens are taken and the demand is to release detained Al Qaeda? There is also precedent that exists to analyze this question. As we speak, there are Americans being held all over the world. In at least one example I am aware of, the demand is financial and the parent company is prepared to pay for the release of their employees. Unfortunately, this particular group has been designated a terrorist organization. Further, the employees in question were doing sub-contracting work for the US government. This set of circumstances has resulted in the government’s refusal to allow the payment of ransom as that would be deemed negotiating with, and capitualating to, a terrorist organization. American corporations must realize that they bear the primary responsiobility for the safety and well-being of their employees. Each firm needs to train their employees that live and travel abroad in the basic security proecedures that must be followed in order to lessen an individual’s chances of being targeted for kidnapping or worse. Having taught executives from numerous Fortune 500 firms, I am constantly surprised at the little attention this issue receives. Employees need to understand how to determine whether they are being targeted. They need to know how to fly safely and select the right hotel and hotel room. They must learn the importance of avoiding predictable patterns of behavior and of selecting the right roads to travel on. And, unfortunately, they need to know what they must do to survive in the event they are taken hostage. It is always easier to avoid a potential danger than it is to get out of one. In this case, a properly prepared employee has the best chance of avoiding being victimzed in this manner.
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