Guile & Deception as Kidnapping Tools

Lome, Togo

Lome, Togo

 

Most people when they think of a kidnapping think of a violent, dramatic event. The victim is ambushed, dragged from his car, threatened with weapons and restrained before being moved to a location where he is isolated. Many kidnappings do follow this model or something very similar. Speed, violence, “shock and awe” are effective tools for the kidnappers – allowing them to gain control of the victim quickly and effectively, dramatically reducing the likelihood of resistance of escape.
There are however kidnappings that don’t follow this model. Circumstances where victims are lured into their captivity induced to put themselves in a vulnerable position and sometimes even controlled through duplicity as much as physical restraint. It’s important to understand and recognize this methodology to be able to protect yourself against it.
A number of these events evolve out of sophisticated scams. The victim is lured to a specified location with the promise of a lucrative business opportunity and then abducted. Many but certainly not all of these incidents have occurred have occurred in West and Central Africa. In March 2014 KR Magazine (www.krmagazine.com) outlined the case of an Australian businessman who was lured to Togo in West Africa, in December 2012 by an opportunity to purchase gold bars. He entered Togo by land from neighboring Ghana, did not get an entry stamp in his passport and was told by his “hosts” that he faced immigration and money laundering charges. He was then held captive “for his own protection” and forced to call his business partner and estranged wife for ransom payments. This incident was also controversial in the sense that after the victim purportedly escaped or was allowed to escape there were allegations that the entire incident was a fraud. Regardless – the case provides numerous examples of a modus operandi that has apparently become increasingly common. There was also a notable case in May 2012 off a US commercial airline pilot who was also lured to Lome, Togo by an opportunity to buy gold bars. The pilot was subsequently held captive in a village in neighboring Benin until a ransom was paid. Similar cases have been reported in Uganda, South Africa and numerous other countries.
The Colombian Facebook Gang – which we have previously discussed (https://protectiveconcepts.wordpress.com/2012/08/03/social-networks-and-the-threat-to-personal-security/) used social media to identify and target wealthy men. Using fake profiles depicting beautiful women the kidnappers enticed the men to “meet in person”. The victims were then abducted when they arrived for the meeting.
Even the well-publicized and tragic case of journalist Daniel Pearl in Pakistan contains elements of the use of deception to lure the victim into captivity. Pearl went to what he believed was an interview with a Pakistani militant – Sheikh Gilani in Karachi. After being taken willingly to the safe house where the interview was to occur, Pearl surrendered all his personal items and allowed himself to be restrained “for security reasons”.
Kidnapping through the use of deception and guile, rather than a gun offers a lot of advantages to the criminal:
• They can get the victim to do the work for them by getting them to isolate themselves and in some cases willingly put themselves into captivity.
• It gives them deniability. If it goes bad and they are caught they can argue it was all a misunderstanding on the part of the victim. If no violence was used and the victim was not physically restrained they may very well prevail with this argument.
• It reduces the physical risk to they face. The victim is unlikely to fight back or physically resist and they are less likely to draw the attention of law enforcement.
• It creates an opaque environment they can manipulate to their advantage. Is the victim free to go? Does the victim know that?

 

Common Elements and Mitigation:
There are some common elements that occur in cases where guile and deception are used and ways to mitigate your risk:

• Many of these situations have the hallmarks of a scam. If it seems to go to be true then it probably is. That said it is worth noting that many of the perpetrators of these crimes can be very sophisticated and can work on developing the mark or victim over time – this is true for both kidnappings and straight out scams. It’s important to do your due diligence in these situations and know who you are dealing with as well as watching for some of the other indicators below.
• Many have an illegal or at least unethical component where the victim knows he or she is getting involved in something that is not legitimate. This allows the perpetrators to require a level of secrecy that would not be typical in most business dealings. It also provides the kidnapper with the leverage of reporting the victim to the authorities. You can mitigate this by not engaging in business deals or other activities that are questionable.
• Be wary of unsolicited approaches from people you don’t know or unsolicited calls or emails requesting a meeting or offering a prospective business opportunity.
• There may be a requirement to go to an isolated location or to accompany the perpetrators to an unknown location. Additionally there may be a change in plans or meeting places at the last minute that isolates the victim. To avoid this it’s important to insist on holding meetings in public locations – preferably that you are either familiar with or have time to assess in advance. You should not agree to last minute changes in meeting venues and if pressed its best to cancel the meeting. Criminals will try to create a sense of urgency to get you to go along with their plan.
• The perpetrators may say certain measures are “for your own protection” or are “security measures” to control you. Do not allow yourself to be willingly confined or restrained under these circumstances.
• There may be an attempt to isolate you and make you dependent. This may include surrendering your passport, mobile phone, etc. We strongly advise travelers – particularly in the developing world – to create multiple layers of contacts or parallel contacts. Do not allow one person or one group of people to control your agenda and activities. Have alternate means of transport, communication, etc. to eliminate this dependency. Also have check in procedures and let others know where you are going and who you will be meeting. We have discussed this in our article on dealing with local contacts (https://protectiveconcepts.wordpress.com/?s=dealing+with+local+contacts ) and in the book Safe Travel Abroad (http://www.amazon.com/Safe-Travel-Abroad-Individual-Expatriates/dp/1484871987/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1402518982&sr=8-1).
Being aware of this type of crime is the best way to reduce your risk of being a victim. Recognizing the criminal modus operandi and identifying the signs will allow you to avoid these situations in most cases.

Kidnapping Avoidance & Prevention Now Available in Paperback

Kidnapping_Avoidance_Cover_for_Kindle (2)

Kidnapping Avoidance & Prevention from Integrated Protective Concepts is now available in paperback format from Amazon.com.  The book was previously released in E-Book format for Kindle and compatible readers.

Kidnapping Avoidance & Prevention is a 70-page book that covers proactive measures that can be taken to reduce the risk of falling victim to a kidnapping.  Here is a little bit about the content:

A confused tourist gets into the wrong taxi and is expressed kidnapped. A businessman is lured to a bogus meeting and held for ransom. An expatriate consultant is kidnapped after being stopped at an impromptu roadblock. A journalist goes for an interview that turns horribly wrong. A bank manager’s family is held hostage to force him to access bank funds. Kidnapping is a pervasive crime that takes many forms around the world. Kidnapping Avoidance & Prevention will help you understand the different types of kidnappings, how they occur and how to identify ways you can better protect yourself, your family and your personnel. In this book you will learn:

• About different types of kidnappings

• How kidnappers select their victims and the process and methods they use • How to assess your vulnerability

• How to recognize potential ruses and traps

• How to limit information about yourself and your movements

• How to recognize surveillance and other pre-incident activity

• How to use OPSEC principles to protect yourself

 • How to use force multipliers to mitigate risk

• Where to find additional resources

Kidnapping Avoidance & Prevention doesn’t discuss hostage survival or how to handle a kidnapping event; rather it concentrates on proactive measures that can be used to reduce the risk of becoming a victim of a kidnapping.

Both paperback and Kindle versions are available here:  http://www.amazon.com/Kidnapping-Avoidance-Prevention-Integrated-Protective/dp/1494762943/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1389880826&sr=1-1&keywords=kidnapping+avoidance

Both versions are also available on many international Amazon sites such as France, UK and Spain.

Kidnapping Avoidance & Prevention

Kidnapping_Avoidance_Cover_for_Kindle (2)

Protective Concepts is pleased to announce the release of  the new book Kidnapping Avoidance & Prevention.  Originally planned for first or second quarter 2013 it got a bit delayed but is now available as a Kindle E-book.  A paperback version of the book is in production and should be available in January 2014.  Please see a brief description below:

A confused tourist gets into the wrong taxi and is expressed kidnapped. A businessman is lured to a bogus meeting and held for ransom. An expatriate consultant is kidnapped after being stopped at an impromptu roadblock. A journalist goes for an interview that turns horribly wrong. A bank manager’s family is held hostage to force him to access bank funds.Kidnapping is a pervasive crime that takes many forms around the world. Kidnapping Avoidance & Prevention will help you understand the different types of kidnappings, how they occur and how to identify ways you can better protect yourself, your family and your personnel.

In this book you will learn:

• About different types of kidnappings
• How kidnappers select their victims and the process and methods they use
• How to assess your vulnerability
• How to recognize potential ruses and traps
• How to limit information about yourself and your movements
• How to recognize surveillance and other pre-incident activity
• How to use OPSEC principles to protect yourself
• How to use force multipliers to mitigate risk
• Where to find additional resources

Kidnapping Avoidance & Prevention doesn’t discuss hostage survival or how to handle a kidnapping event; rather it concentrates on proactive measures that can be used to reduce the risk of becoming a victim of a kidnapping.

Some additional administrative notes:  The Kindle E-Book version sells for $4.99 USD.   The paperback version when it becomes available will sell for around $14.00 USD.  The original formatting was done for the paperback version so there may be some awkward sections in the E-Book version depending on the particular reader you are using.  Regardless any version should be completely readable.
Questions and comments are welcome and should be emailed to integratedprotectiveconcepts@gmail.com.

When Cultural Faux Pas and Inadvertent Rule-Breaking Lead to Detention

Photog

US citizen Shezanne Cassim and four other men are currently being detained in United Arab Emirates for making a satirical film about a fictional martial arts school in Satwa neighborhood of Dubai.  The 20-minute film, which follows the format of shows like Fight Quest and Human Weapon begins with the film makers visiting the fictional “Satwa Combat School” and meeting the instructor Saloom Snake to learn about his system.  A link to the New York Times article and the You Tube video is here:

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/06/world/middleeast/united-arab-emirates-satirical-video.html?src=un&feedurl=http%3A%2F%2Fjson8.nytimes.com%2Fpages%2Fworld%2Fmiddleeast%2Findex.jsonp

Dubai authorities clearly didn’t think the film was funny and Cassim and his cohorts are facing charges of threatening national security and endangering public order.  While this may seem strange to many western observers, this incident really illustrates the risk of not knowing or unintentionally violating local rules.  This problem is particularly acute in locations where there may be mixed messages.  There is the Dubai that is known for its incredible shopping malls, indoor skiing, the Palm Jumeirah and its upscale nightclubs and bars.  Many visitors and expatriates have no issue in Dubai and most don’t even feel like they are in the Middle East.  This can create a dangerous complacency.  While the UAE is in no way as conservative as Saudi Arabia, there are conservative elements there and laws that may have been unwittingly violated can be enforced strictly.

This is true in many locations around the world.  Local laws and cultural mores may be very different from what western travelers and expatriates are accustomed to in their home countries of even in foreign countries that are more like their own.  Many of us have grown up in societies where questioning authority was completely permissible and often the norm.  This is not the case in many countries.  Insulting the king is a criminal offense in Morocco and Thailand for example.

Additionally actions you take and things you possess may also result in detention by local authorities.  Travelers in the developing world and in security-conscious countries need to be very careful about what they photograph.  One classic example is taking pictures at the airport, which will get you arrested in some countries or at least get the camera confiscated.  The same is true for photographing other critical infrastructure like ports, bridges, etc. as well government buildings, police & military personnel and political activity.  Carry a satellite phone is prohibited in some countries, requires special licensing in others and will draw unwanted attention in others.  This is not to say you should never carry one but check local laws and weigh the need before traveling.  We have two other articles that further address this issue:  Blending in and the Gray Man (https://protectiveconcepts.wordpress.com/?s=gray+man) and Sanitize Yourself for Travel (https://protectiveconcepts.wordpress.com/2012/06/21/sanitize-yourself-for-travel).

Other activities like promoted your religious beliefs or taking part in local political activities such as demonstrations and protests can get you arrested and detained.  Sometimes the enforcement come at the hands of local citizens and not the authorities, especially if the activity is not technically illegal.

Self-Preservation vs. Self-Perfection

While we generally tend to focus on the less physical aspects of personal security and self-protection or the “soft skills” it’s important at times to comment on some aspects of the hard skills, especially when it comes to the need for realistic and functional training.  For those people who choose to pursue some type of physical self defense or martial arts training with a goal of improving their personal safety and security its critical to recognize the difference between self-preservation and self-perfection.  While many  instructors have noted the distinction between these two areas in many different terms I will choose to use the terminology of self-preservation vs. self-perfection used by Jeet Kune Do instructor Paul Vunak .  Regardless of what you may think of what Vunak teaches he encapsulates this concept very well.

Too many people who seek training for self defense end up pursuing self-perfection oriented training when they would be better served to acquire self-preservation skills instead – or at least acquire them first.  What is the difference between the two?  Self-preservation training gives you the skills to improve your chances of surviving a violent encounter.  These are the basic, readily employable physical skills that allow you to do damage to an assailant while hopefully limiting the damage you sustain yourself.  They do not need to be pretty and they shouldn’t be complex.  They can be employed across a spectrum of situations with little or no modification.  Self-perfection is the pursuit of mastery of physical skills and physical attributes that may or may not make you more effective at defending yourself. 

Self-preservation skills should be gross motor and can be applied under stress and pressure.  While physical strength and athleticism will always come into play, these skills should not rely totally on them.  They should be simple to learn and retain and be trained under pressure in an adrenal-induced environment.  They should not require a massive training commitment or years of training before they can be used effectively.

In contrast self-perfection is achieved through attention to detail, extensive repetition and fine tuning.  Can self-perfection training contribute to self defense capability?  Yes – probably in many cases it can and as long as it is still grounded in reality there is nothing wrong with it.  Will you be more effective if you do training that enhances your fluidity, hand speed, reaction time and body mechanics?  Very likely you will if you are concentrating on enhancing your practical self-preservation skills in the process.  If the self-perfection training is focused on unrealistic methods it’s worse than useless.

Given the limited time and interest most people have to devote to this type of training it’s important to focus on practical, combative self-preservation training first and self-perfection should take a back seat.  For those with the time and interest there is always the option to focus on self-perfection of the core skills and physical attribute development later.

 

Dangerous Business

Hole - Peter Shaw

 

If you do business in an international environment then chances are you deal with a wide range of people with different ideas about acceptable business practices, business ethics, conflict resolution and competition.  While some of these people may hold views very similar to yours many others may have a different perspective.   Generally speaking the further you go off the beaten path the more pronounced these differences may be.

Whether you are aware of it or not you may run afoul of one of these people.  Either by posing competition to their business, refusing to pay bribes or engage in corruption, by choosing or failing to choose a certain vendor or business partner.  In many places members of the police, military and security forces also have private sector business interest and can present a formidable threat if you find yourself in a business dispute with them.

Consider the story of Peter Shaw, a Welsh banker working for the European Commission in Tbilisi, Georgia.  Shaw was in Georgia providing consulting to the Georgian banking sector.  In June 2002, just days before he was supposed to complete his assignment and leave Georgia, Shaw was kidnapped off a Tbilisi street by heavily armed attackers in paramilitary uniforms.  He was then held captive for five months, four of them in a subterranean cell in the Pankisi Gorge under deplorable conditions, the details of which he recounts in his book Hole: Kidnapped in Georgia.  While it was never conclusively proven that his kidnapping was related to his work in banking there were strong indications that it was.  It’s possible that Shaw’s work to improve the Georgian banking sector put him at odds with powerful people who were using the financial system for their own enrichment.

While Shaw’s case is an extreme example, it’s important to be aware of potential pitfalls that may exist in the country or countries where you are conducting business.   How do you counteract this risk?  It’s difficult but due diligence on potential partners and associates and a thorough assessment of the business sector in that country is one initial step you can take.  Knowing who the key players are and what businesses they are in is a good beginning.  Another is a simple awareness of the threat and practicing good personal security measures and operational security.

 

Mindsetting & Personal Security

While working on a project on kidnapping prevention techniques recently the subject of mindsetting came up.  By mindsetting we mean spending time considering potential situations that may occur and thinking through potential responses.  This will help you develop a gameplan or a framework for responding to potential threats.

 

The principle of mindsetting is discussed in detail by Sanford Strong in his 1996 book Strong on Defense.  I highly recommend Strong on Defense – though a little dated it provides very clear and straightforward guidance for preparing to face violent crime.  My only caveat is that the book is very US-centric and some of the guidance is a little too black-and-white so readers should take that into consideration – otherwise it’s very good.  Strong goes into detail about factors to consider with mindsetting and visualization.

 

Back to mindsetting:  When doing this you need to concentrate on the more likely possible situations that might occur and practical effective potential responses.  To the degree possible you should choose simple responses that can be applied across several different situations.  Giving yourself too many responses can lead to paralysis should a situation occur.  As an example if you are living or traveling in a place where criminals, insurgents or others set-up unauthorized roadblocks and stop vehicles to carry out robberies and kidnappings you should consider what actions you should take if you encounter one of these roadblocks.  If you use a driver you will want to discuss this with the driver and even consider conducting immediate action drills to practice what you will do if the threat level warrants it.  By doing this you prepare yourself and hopefully will be able to respond more effectively if an incident happens.  Even if you have to shift from your original plan – and you should leave yourself the flexibility to do that – you will at least start with a roadmap for action in place.

 

This is an exercise that you can do anywhere and should do regularly – especially if you are operating in a high threat environment.  This does not have to be limited to physical responses – you can do it for numerous other types of situations as well.  For example if you are working or living in a location where there is a high threat of detention and possibly interrogation by the local authorities you may want to work through verbal responses or scripts to prepare yourself for that type of situation.

 

This type of mental preparation can cut reaction time and allow you to have a more thought-out response even when there is no time for thinking because you have already considered the situation, or one very much like it and determined how you will respond.  You can use newspaper articles, incident reports and other sources about the type of events that occur in the environment where you are operating to devise the most realistic scenarios.