Kidnapping for ransom is surging in Africa

Stop kidnapping. - Stock image
Stop kidnapping. - Stock image

Nine countries in Africa have been flagged as having a “severe” or “high” threat of kidnapping for ransom.

Global risk and crisis management consultancy NYA International‚ which released its 2016 Kidnap and Piracy Map on Wednesday‚ also cited severe threat ratings for maritime piracy off Somalia and Nigeria.

Overall‚ intensified civil conflicts in Africa‚ entrenched criminality in Latin America and the advance of Islamist militancy in spaces worldwide have contributed to the agency placing “severe” kidnap ratings for 11 countries‚ up from eight in 2015.

 A further 11 countries moved from “medium” to “high”.

Assessing cases of kidnap for ransom during 2015‚ NYA said Africa accounted for 34% of the world’s kidnap incidents‚ second only to Asia which had 40%. The Americas accounted for 14% and the Middle East 10% while Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) accounted for 2%

 Although foreign nationals bear a disproportionate threat burden‚ local citizens are more likely to be kidnapped‚ the report said‚ with nine in 10 victims in 2015 kidnapped in their home country.

The 11 countries that face a “severe” kidnapping threat are: Afghanistan‚ Central African Republic‚ Democratic Republic of Congo‚ Iraq‚ Libya‚ Nigeria‚ Pakistan‚ Somalia‚ South Sudan‚ Syria and Yemen.

 Egypt‚ Cameroon‚ Lebanon and Kenya are four of 11 countries that moved from medium to high threat. Each is facing domestic or neighbouring Islamist militancy‚ contributing to the increase‚ the agency said.

 Several African states saw a worsening in their rating in 2015‚ with South Sudan and Central African Republic moving to severe following intensified civil conflicts. Kenya‚ Mozambique‚ Mauritania and Uganda also worsened‚ contributing to Africa’s second place on the list of kidnap incidents by region‚ according to NYA.

 Worsening economies could pose a threat for this year‚ the agency said.

“In 2016‚ global economic uncertainty and low oil prices threatens to exacerbate the kidnapping threat in countries such as Mexico‚ Nigeria‚ Venezuela and Libya‚ where threats are already high to severe.”

There is cause for optimism‚ however‚ the report states. “Peace talks in Colombia‚ once the world’s leading kidnap hotspot‚ showed mediation and concession can reduce threats‚ albeit over time.”


There are severe threat ratings for piracy off Somalia‚ Nigeria‚ Singapore and Malaysia.

 The report states that although there have been no hijackings of large commercial vessels off Somalia since 2012‚ attacks‚ sightings and hijackings of smaller vessels in 2015 indicate the threat remains severe. The area of concern off Somalia is in the Gulf of Aden and Bab el Mandeb.

Extremely violent hijackings‚ crew kidnappings and a return to militancy in the Delta sees Nigeria retain its severe threat rating.

 Specifically‚ Nigeria’s southern coast‚ from Ondo State to the Cameroon border‚ is classified as a severe threat area “due to frequent hijacking and attacks‚ characterised by crew kidnapping and often lethal violence”‚ the report states.

 Criminal boardings off Singapore and Malaysia remain constant‚ and periodic hijackings for cargo theft contribute to its severe rating.

The waters off Bangladesh and Venezuela are cited as high threat areas due to repeated hijackings and attacks against typically smaller vessels.

Alex Kemp‚ NYA managing director‚ said: “NYA’s 2016 Kidnap and Piracy map shows some of the security threats that organisations face as they operate globally. We advise organisations to be fully informed about the threats‚ put appropriate mitigation measures in place‚ provide security training for their staff‚ and ensure that the organisation is prepared to response to incidents of this nature‚ if they occur. Good security risk and crisis management helps protect human lives‚ and safeguard the organisation’s operations and reputation.”

- A live interactive map can be found at


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