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The Institute for Economics and Peace recently has released their 2014 Global Terrorism Index. Well, it’s not just another report. Please have a look at it for the sound analytics behind the expertise and take Your time to reflect on their empirical study on Peace and Religion (a global statistical analysis on the empirical link between peace and religion) as well!
Find both free reports here and keep reading:
While RAND (2008) some years ago already has tackled the issue, how terrorist groups end, recent research by START, the (as well US-based) National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism, has focused on factors that make groups last longer by analysing their large database on terrorist groups and incidents.
Apart from adding new data, what are START’s key findings? In their concluding part Young and Dugan state:
„We find consistent support for our core proposition that as the number of groups who use terrorism in a country increase, the less likely those groups will survive. Others have found an association between the strength of the state and the frequency of attacks. We also find a relationship between state capabilities and terrorist group survival using CINC and GDP. (…) The capabilities of the group also matter. The more the group kills, uses different kinds of attacks, targets multiple states, or uses the most costly forms of attack, the more likely it will survive longer.“
Although one might notice favourably the interesting metaphor they use in comparing terrorist group survivability to industry leaders operating in competitive markets, these are factually not especially enlightening perspectives for current terrorism hotbeds.
Important research that allows us a close look at the „state of terrorism“ by analysing more than 2.000 terrorist groups over a period reaching from 1970 to 2010!
Europe’s New Training Initiative for Civilian Crisis Management (ENTRi) recently has developed a minimum standard course concept for HEAT training and is ready to certify courses upon application. The acronym HEAT stands for „Hostile Environment Awareness Training“ and relies on a five day training curriculum that usually covers 5 modules:
- Module 1 concentrates on requirements for personnel deployed in hostile environments (Threat awareness, vehicle movement security, hostage survival, IEDs and UXOs (unexploded ordnance)).
- Module 2 consists of a situational training exercise.
- Module 3 incorporates health maintenance issues.
- Module 4 focuses on orientation (GPS navigation and map reading), communications and four-wheel-driving.
- Module 5 consists of a field training exercise.
Looking at these refined training standards (and a likewise well developed practice, e.g. in Bundeswehr facilities at Hammelburg), it remains an open and pressing question, how commercial businesses arrange preparatory courses for staff members to travel in high-risk-environments.
As we already have described in a survey published 2012 (Fassbender, P. & Jertz, W. (2012). Sicherheit: was erwarten Expats von ihren Arbeitgebern?Personal Manager. HR International. Fachzeitschrift für Auslandsentsendung. Two parts: 2/2012 and 3/2012), these kind of training seems to be exactly, what many prospective expats are looking for! Our data suggest that this need is very often not answered adequately by European employers.
Despite dire warnings widespread demonstrations against the French-/ECOWAS-intervention in Mali with Muslim groups all over the world protesting until now have not gained ground. Nonetheless there are regional effects that shed light on Jihadi-networks in Western Africa.
A current example is illustrated by a post on Al-Wasat that concentrates on Nigeria and the interface between groups fighting for influence in the country and their possible links to AQIM and terrorist networks in the Maghreb-region.
The following JPEG shows a UCINET-based visualization of terrorist group-interconnections and tracks the suspected links between Ansaru („Jama’atu Ansaril Muslimina fi Biladis Sudan„), a Boko-Haram splinter group, and terrorist incidents including kidnappings of Europeans in Nigeria, as discussed in the above-mentioned post.
The post delivers a quite detailled discussion on evidence for close ties with AQIM, e.g. by looking at the modus operandi of kidnappings carried out by Al Qaeda in the Maghreb (there is a least one kidnapping AQIM has claimed responsibility for that took place in Nigeria) and assumed Ansaru-activities in the country.
Conclusions still have to be taken circumspectively, as a paragraph on the handling of kidnappings by AQIM and Ansaru might illustrate: „Another interesting indication of possible links to AQIM is that (…) the negotiator handling talks for a ransom payment to free Lamolinara and McManus („a Briton and an Italian kidnapped May 2011 who died during a failed rescue attempt in March 2012″) was none other than Mustapha Ould Limam Chaffi, a Mauritanian opposition figure, (…) and negotiator who handled multiple AQIM hostage takings. However Chaffi came to be part of the negotiations (…), his presence bolsters the anecdotal evidence of certain ties between Ansaru, or at least factions of Boko Haram, and AQIM“ (source: see above).
Focussing again on the backlash-potential: in Nigeria regional effects have already surfaced, as Ansaru has claimed responsibility for an attack on a Nigerian army detachment heading for Mali on January 20.
„A January 29, 2013 report in the London-based daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi speaks of growing concerns that terrorists driven out of northern Mali may infiltrate North Africa and southern Europe. Citing European and North African sources, the daily states that the level of alert in North African Arab countries (Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, Libya and Mauritania) and in some countries in Southern Europe, notably Spain, has been raised following the expulsion of jihadi elements from towns in northern Mali. Morocco’s military has reportedly gone on full alert, intensifying ground and aerial patrols to track the movement of terrorist, and Spain is closely monitoring border zones with Morocco and boats carrying immigrants, especially those arriving from Algeria and from the Canary Islands“ (Source: MEMRI Jihad and Terrorism Threat Monitor, February 2, 2013).
Update February 16. 2013: „On February 11, 2013, the Salafi-jihadi website Minbar Al-Tawhid Wal-Jihad published a fatwa by one of its leading clerics, Abu Mundhir Al-Shinqiti, in which he approved attacks on French embassies, encouraging jihadis to carry them out wherever they can. He also called upon them to respond to French intervention in Mali by attacking French interests, companies, and citizens everywhere. Al-Shinqiti explained that the Islamic laws regarding the immunity of emissaries do not apply to modern-day ambassadors. Furthermore, he claimed that French embassies were „dens of evil“ that strive to spread corruption in Muslim lands and to spy on the mujahideen and Islamists.“ (Source: JTTM, February 16, 2013).
With the „hostage debacle in Algeria — which killed 23 oil workers and 32 hostages, and ended in a fiery assault — international energy companies operating in the region are left grappling with an urgent question: Can they keep their personnel safe amid the region’s political upheaval amplified by the conflict in Mali, where French forces have intervened to stop government forces being overrun by jihadist militants?“ This paragraph quoted from an introductory feature in Time poses a serious question with strong validity generally for western companies operating in crisis regions and has been valid irrespectively of the current events since the hostage crises related to PLO-activities in the 1970s, a still ongoing abduction business in Colombia, and, of course, the islamist attacks, that are linked to the Al Qaeda-franchise starting in the late 1990s.
After several decades of terrorism research: what do we know empirically about hostage taking and kidnapping incidents in a terrorist context?
We know quite a lot in terms of modus operandi (MO) and „demographics of hostage taking events“ due to open source and freely searchable databases such as RAND´s „Database of worldwide terrorism incidents“ (currently with valid data spanning the time 1972-2009) as well as due to databases not open to the public but with relevant coverage of inhouse analyses of these data, such as the database set-up by the „Institute for the Study of violent Groups“ (ISVG-database).
Additionally, there is an intense scientific debate, chronicled e.g., in journals like „Terrorism and political Violence„. Research distinguishes four principal MOs of political abductions:
- Clandestine abduction and bargaining: According to this method, the terror organization abducts hostages and holds them in a hideaway. The adversary only learns of the abduction subsequently, after the kidnappers and the hostages have been hidden at a “safe place”. Clandestine abduction and bargaining has been quite common in Afghanistan, Iraq as well as in Gaza (Hamas), Lebanon (Hezbollah) and Yemen.
- Overt abductions and bargaining: In this scenario the terror organization takes over hostages in a building or seizes alternatively a means of transportation. A short time after taking over the hostages or sometimes during that process, security entities become aware of the terror activity and begin to contend with it. Duration of negotiations is shorter than in a covert abduction. Rapid decision-making is necessary, often under time-pressure and media-coverage.
- Capture and negotiation attacks: In this case, a terror cell seizes a private or public building and holds the individuals populating that building hostage. Negotiation are conducted with the authorities in order to achieve its goals in exchange for the hostages´ release. Mega-attacks such as the theater raid in Moscow some years ago or the Beslan hijacking of a school in North Austia constitute past capture and negotiation attacks.
- The seizure of transportation means: hijacking transportation means that it is possible to capture a relatively large number of hostages; the hostages are held in relatively small area and under crowded conditions, which makes it difficult to rescue them; as long as the means of transportation is mobile it is almost impossible to conduct a rescue attack. Well known seizures of transportation means are Fatah’s attack at the Savoy Hotel in 1975, the sea-jacking of the Achille Lauro in 1985 and the PFLP airplane hijackings in the 1970s.
From Yun´s 2008 study of the ISVG-data (N= 764 cases of hostage-taking) some behavioral observations can be drawn:
- Demographics: 31,2 % of hostages safely released, 21,3 % killed by hostage takers, 4,2 % rescued by Government forces, 1,4 % Escape, 0,9% accidentally killed during rescue attempt, 0,3 % killed during hostage taking attempt. Not unexpectedly the beginning and the end of a hostage situation are especially dangerous phases.
- Hostage taking groups with more experience on hostage taking and kidnapping tend to more likely execute their hostages then least experienced hostage taking groups.
- If a hostage is a foreigner rather than a domestic, chance of safe release increases.
- Hostage taking groups based on religion are considerably more likely to execute their hostages than non-religion hostage taking groups!
What should companies do?
Apart from large multinationals operating in conflict zones, who have set-up their own security architecture, often with intense PMC-support, many firms, especially SMEs, practice not much more than strict denial. There is very often – at least in Germany – only very limited contingency planning and almost no preparation for the experience of high-stress-situations such as being taken taken as hostage or trainings to foster psychological resilience during an extended crisis.
Analysis of open source empirical data on N= 116 abduction cases of foreigners in Iraq and Afghanistan from 200 to 2008 we have carried out in 2009, shows that while a minority of foreign abductees did not survive (18 % killed in Afghanistan, 27 % killed in Iraq – including a period of aggressive targeting of foreigners), hostages were released after a mean period of 28 days (Afghanistan) respectively 17 days (Iraq) of captivity with this timespan rising rapidly over the analysis period in both countries reaching about 40 days in 2008.
Firms sending expats into regions of potentials crisis do have a responsibility to adress political risks and to prepare expats for such hardships, especially, as we know from resilience research that this kind of information does not scare away any participant but allows for a far better preparation if a hostage crisis really unfolds!
Apart from a sound preparation for expats decision makers themselves would largely benefit from emergency taskforce training. In a very limited sense familiarization with the not-so-pleasant aspects of a region and their „political mechanics“ might be helpful as a first step. So starting with tabletop conflict simulations such as „Andean Abyss“ or „A distant Plain“ (forthcoming in 2013) might be a promising approach for developing sensibility as well.
Fassbender, P. & Jertz, W. (2012). Sicherheit: was erwarten Expats von ihren Arbeitgebern? Personal Manager. HR International. Fachzeitschrift für Auslandsentsendung. Zwei Teile in den Heften 2 und 3/2012.
Faure, G.O. & Zartmann, I.W. (2010). Negotiating with terrorists. Strategy, tactics, and politics. London: Routledge.
Yun, M. (2008). Understanding global terrorist hostage taking and kidnapping. Saarbrücken: VDM.