Hostage Taking and Terrorism: The Human Bargaining Chip
Hostage Taking and Terrorism: The Human Bargaining Chip
The past few years have shown a noticeable increase in the number of hostage taking incidents worldwide. Motivated by the prospect of receiving money in exchange for their hostages, numerous rebel and extremist groups around the world are increasingly turning to hostage taking for ransom as a means of financing their activities, recruiting new supporters, and generating public sympathy towards their cause. Many governments are reluctant to negotiate with terrorists out of the belief that other terrorist groups may take advantage of the precedent.
- A high percentage of hostage takings occur in countries with political and social unrest, a high level of inequity among the countries' citizens, and where the local law enforcement community is either corrupt or simply unable to keep the rebel groups under control.
- In countries plagued by unrest and turmoil, only a small number of terrorist groups are ever caught, further enticing rebel groups to turn to hostage taking as a means of advancing their goals.
- Few governments negotiate with terrorists, out of the belief that they will be targeted by other terrorists' in the future if they show a willingness to make concessions and meet terrorist demands.
- Without an avenue for negotiation, some terrorist groups are willing to sacrifice hostages, and even themselves, to gain publicity and support for their causes.
On May 1, 2002, a spokesman for the Abu Sayyaf Muslim extremist group operating in the southern Philippines threatened on Filipino radio to kill an American missionary couple it has been holding hostage. Philippine president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo had recently announced that the government would not negotiate with the terrorists. Kidnapped a year earlier on May 27, 2001, from a resort off the island of Palawan in the Philippines, Martin and Gracia Burnham have been held as human bargaining chips in the rebel group's campaign to create an Iranian-style Islamic state on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao.
Founded in 1991 when it split from the Moro National Liberation Front, the Abu Sayyaf group, whose name means Bearer of the Sword, has been active in various terrorist activities, including bombings, assassinations, kidnappings, and extortion. In the past two years Abu Sayyaf extremists have turned to hostage taking to further their political and religious goals. Linked to both Osama bin Ladin's al-Qaeda terrorist organization and to Ramzi Yousef, who was convicted of masterminding the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, the Abu Sayyaf group has turned hostage taking into a lucrative business, and they are not alone.
The past few years have shown a noticeable increase in the number of hostage taking incidents worldwide. Motivated by the prospect of receiving money in exchange for their hostages, numerous rebel and extremist groups around the world are increasingly turning to hostage taking for ransom as a means of financing their activities, recruiting new supporters, and generating public sympathy towards their cause. A high percentage of these hostage takings occur in countries where there is political and social unrest, a high level of inequity among the countries' citizens, and where the local law enforcement community is either corrupt or simply unable to keep the rebel groups under control. In countries plagued by unrest and turmoil, only a small number of these groups ever get caught, further enticing rebel groups to turn to hostage taking as a means of advancing their goals.
Why Take a Hostage?
Hostage taking has been a been a popular tactic for extremists for thousands of years. As defined under international law, hostage taking is "the seizing or detaining and threatening to kill, injure, or continue to detain a person in order to compel a third party to do or abstain from doing any act as an explicit or implicit condition for the release of the seized or detained person" ("International Terrorism: American Hostage," October 17, 1995). In other words, a hostage is an individual taken by force in order to secure the taker's demands. Some of the more common objectives of hostage taking have been to make ransom demands to generate funds for the terrorists' cause, to generate sympathy for a cause, and to raise instantaneous publicity through the media. Other reasons have included the use of hostages to recruit new members, and as a means of extortion to force authorities into making compromises, including the release of imprisoned group members and other political prisoners.
If the purpose of the hostage taking is to generate sympathy for a specific cause, or to recruit new members from the publicity raised through the event, it will be in the terrorists best interest for the hostage taking incident to end peacefully. In this case, the hostages are seen as the means to an end, rather than the intended target. In many of these cases, the hostage takers are willing to negotiate with authorities.
On the other hand, if the purpose of the hostage taking is to generate massive media attention on the cause the extremists are espousing, and if the extremist is willing to die for that cause, the hostage may be seen as expendable. In such cases, hostage takers might be willing to harm or kill the hostages in order to garner the most headlines possible. Terrorists who have "nothing to lose" and are willing to die for their cause are the most dangerous types of hostage takers, and the ones most difficult with which to negotiate.
Another type of hostage taking scenario where the hostage is seen as expendable is the kidnapping and assassination scenario. Along these lines, some extremists have engaged in hostage taking with the fixed intent of killing their hostages to generate massive media attention and fear. These types of terrorists are rarely willing to negotiate with the authorities, and if and when they do, it is often only with the intent of generating media attention to the cause or to "string the authorities" along. This was the case of the recent hostage taking and brutal murder of Wall Street Journal news reporter and editor Daniel Pearl.
Hostage Taking Throughout History
One of the first written accounts of hostage taking can be found in the Book of Genesis, Chapter 14, in the Christian Bible. Around 1913 BCELot, nephew of Abram, was taken hostage along with all of his possessions by four warring kings. In an effort to rescue his nephew, Abram took a trained military force of 318 men, attacked the kings in a night raid, and rescued Lot and all of his possessions.
During the Middle Ages, where the origins of the word "hostage" are first derived (adapted from the Old French hoste), hostage taking was a common practice. Governed by a strict code of honor, hostages were taken to ensure that treaty obligations were fulfilled. Once the obligations were met, the hostages were returned from where they were taken. Hostage taking to fulfill treaty obligations ended in the eighteenth century.
In the late eighteenth century the practice of paying tribute to "Barbary" states become common place. The term "barbary" is derived from a sixteenth century adventurer named Barbarossa, "red beard", who, in 1510, seized Algiers and placed it under the control of the Ottoman sultan. During the eighteenth century pirates from four African countries, Algiers, Morocco, Tripoli, and Tunis, would prey on merchant ships sailing in the Mediterranean, seizing the ships, crew, and cargo, and holding them for ransom. While the United States refused to pay the ransom for the release of American hostages, many European maritime countries agreed to pay a tribute to the Barbary states to ensure that their ships passed unmolested through Mediterranean waters.
After a number of incidents with U.S. ships being taken hostage, the United States agreed to negotiate with the pirates. In 1815, however, the United States effectively ended North African piracy and the use of American hostages as bargaining chips when a fleet of U.S. ships descended upon Northern Africa and threatened to bombard Algiers. The countries agreed to immediately stop pirating American ships.
Hostage taking and the use of humans as bargaining chips continued around the world in the early twentieth century. Perhaps one of the most notable incidents of hostage taking at this time occurred in 1932 in the United States. It was in that year that the son of famous U.S. aviator Charles Lindbergh was kidnapped and held hostage. Even though Lindbergh conceded to the hostage takers' demands for ransom in exchange for his son's release, the boy was later found murdered near the family home in New Jersey.
Like the tragic Lindbergh case, a number of high profile hostage taking incidents occurred over the past thirty years, including the 1972 Munich hostage crisis, the 1979 Iran hostage crisis, the 1985 TWA flight 847 hijacking and hostage taking, and the 1996 Peruvian embassy hostage crisis. Each demonstrated that some terrorist hostage taking incidents can result in deadly and fatal outcomes.
Munich Olympic Hostage Crisis
In the early morning hours of September 5, 1972, a group of eight heavily armed Palestinian terrorists scaled the perimeter fence surrounding the Olympic Village in Munich, Germany, entered apartments housing the Israeli Olympic team, and took eleven men hostage, killing two in the initial hostage taking. After taking the Israeli athletes hostage, the terrorists, from the Black September group, demanded the release of more than two hundred political prisoners being held in Israeli jails in exchange for the release of their hostages. They said that they would execute the Israeli athletes if their demands were not met.
According to Simon Reeve in One Day in September: The Story of the 1972 Munich Olympics Massacre (2000), when confronted with the demands made by the terrorists, the first response of Israeli prime minister Golda Meir was that Israel would brook no deal with the terrorists. Even though the German authorities were open to compromise with the terrorists, the Israeli government adamantly refused to consider meeting any of the demands. Faced with the Israeli government's refusal to negotiate, the German authorities agreed that their initial response would be one of negotiation rather than of force.
A team of German negotiators continuously met with the Black September terrorists throughout the day. At one point during the negotiations, a number of German politicians and negotiators offered to trade themselves for the hostages, but the Black September terrorists refused, knowing that their best chance in getting Israel to concede to their demands lied with the Israeli Olympic athletes they already held. Unbeknownst to the hostage takers, Israel had no intention of meeting any of the terrorists' demands.
By early evening it became obvious to the terrorists that the Israeli government was not willing to release their list of prisoners. The hostage takers then changed tactics, demanding that the German authorities provide them with two airplanes that would take them to Cairo, Egypt. If Israel did not release the political prisoners and fly them to Cairo to meet the hostage takers, then the Israeli athletes would be executed. The German authorities had no intention of letting the Black September terrorists leave the country and devised a plan to rescue the athletes once they arrived at the local airport. In the late evening on September 5, two helicopters ferried the terrorists and their captives to an airfield outside of Munich. The rescue attempt by the German authorities failed, alerting the terrorists to the plan, and after a deadly firefight all nine of the remaining Israeli hostages, five terrorists, and one German policeman lay dead.
The tragic deaths of the Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympic Games raised two important questions. Why did the Black September terrorists choose the 1972 Olympic Games as the venue for their hostage taking? And why did Israel adamantly refuse to negotiate with the hostage takers? The Olympic Games in Munich offered the Black September terrorists a platform through which they could broadcast their grievances. With media and camera crews from nearly every country in the world in attendance at the Games, the Palestinian terrorists were assured instant and massive media coverage of their actions. The names of the five terrorists who died during the ill fated hostage taking attempt were splashed across newspapers throughout the Arab world, giving them instant martyr status and inspiring sympathy and support for the Palestinian cause among many disaffected youth. Even though they were unsuccessful in getting the Israeli government to submit to their demands to release a number of political prisoners, the hostage takers were successful in getting instantaneous publicity for their cause.
Throughout her term as Israel's prime minister, Golda Meir had firmly stated on numerous occasions that it was Israel's policy not to negotiate with terrorists. When confronted with the Black September terrorists' demands, Meir's response was instantaneous: Israel would not give in to any concessions. If Israel had succumbed to the terrorists' demands and released the political prisoners, it is likely that other terrorist groups would have "jumped on the bandwagon" and used hostage taking as a tool from which to glean concessions from the Israeli government. Israel, like the United States and a number of other countries around the world, believe that making concessions that benefit hostage takers will only further entice other terrorists to engage in hostage taking activities.
In an effort to create a unified front against hostage taking, on December 18, 1979, the International Convention Against the Taking of Hostages was opened for signature in New York City. The United States government, a signatory to this convention, has resolutely maintained a policy of non-negotiation with terrorists, believing that making concessions to hostage takers will only further motivate terrorists to take American citizens hostage. The U.S. government policy is that it will brook no concessions to terrorists and make no deals. While many countries around the world share the same view as the United States, other countries have been willing to negotiate with terrorists, including Russia and India. This has, in part, supported the continuance of hostage taking by terrorists wishing to extract some concession from a government.
Hostage Taking in the 1970s and 1980s
A series of high profile hostage taking incidents occurred throughout the 1970s and 1980s, including a number of airplane hijackings. Following the overthrow of the shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, from Iran by an Islamic revolutionary government, Iranian militants on November 4, 1979, stormed the American embassy in Tehran and took 66 American diplomats hostage. Thirteen hostages were soon released, but the remaining 53 were held as human bargaining chips against the U.S. government. U.S. president Jimmy Carter (1977-81) responded to the hostage taking in two ways. First, he pursued the diplomatic options open to him, attempting to persuade the Iranians to release their American captives. Second, President Carter applied economic pressure on Iran by halting all oil imports from that country and freezing all Iranian assets in the United States. Both efforts failed to gain the hostages' release.
On April 24, 1980, U.S. forces mounted a rescue mission which also failed, resulting in the deaths of eight soldiers. The death of the shah in 1980, coupled with the invasion of Iran by Iraq, paved the way for negotiations between Iran and the United States. The hostage takers had less grievance with the United States after the shah's death, as they were opposed to the shah and thus to the United States' allowing him into the country in his exile. Using Algerian intermediaries, the two countries successfully negotiated the release of the American captives, and on January 20, 1981, 444 days after they were first taken captive, the hostages were freed. In return for the Americans' release from Iranian captivity, and on the day of newly elected President Ronald Reagan's inauguration, the United States released the nearly US$8 billion of Iranian assets it had frozen.
Other acts of hostage taking occurred throughout the world during the 1970s and 1980s. In November 1979 two hundred Islamic extremists seized the Grand Mosque in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, where hundreds of pilgrims were praying. Saudi forces decided that immediate force was necessary to resolve the situation, and after an intense battle between the Islamic terrorists and the soldiers, the security forces took control of the mosque. Tragically, the battle resulted in the deaths of more than 250 people. Nearly six hundred more were injured.
In April 1983 an American citizen was taken hostage by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and held for ransom, and on March 16, 1985, chief Middle East correspondent for the Associated Press, Terry Anderson, was taken hostage in Beirut, Lebanon. Held for over six years by his captives, Anderson was one of a number of Americans kidnapped and held hostage in Lebanon in the 1980s.
Hostage Taking in the 1990s
While hostage taking in the 1970s and 1980s were characterized by terrorist groups using hostages to make political statements or to extract concessions from governments, including the release of fellow compatriots, hostage taking in the 1990s has been largely characterized by hostage for ransom demands. Except for a small number of incidents, the recent upswing of hostage takings for ransom demonstrates a shifting of motivations for some extremists groups. Out to make money rather than a political statement, hostage taking for ransom has become the dominant type of hostage taking on the world scene. In 1992, on separate occasions, two American businessmen were taken hostage in Colombia by FARC rebels; in January 1993 the FARC kidnapped three American missionaries and held them for ransom; and in September 1994 the rebels took another American citizen hostage. A deadly hostage taking incident in 1995, however, and the 1996 Peruvian embassy hostage crisis, demonstrate that not all hostage taking events in the 1990s were motivated by ransom demands.
On July 4, 1995, six western tourists, including two American citizens, were kidnapped and taken hostage in the Pahalgam area of the Kashmir Valley, a region in dispute by India and Pakistan. A militant Kashmiri separatist group calling itself Al-Faran claimed responsibility for the hostage taking and said that it would execute the hostages if the Indian government did not release 22 terrorists imprisoned in Indian jails. All of the terrorists on the Al-Faran list were members of the Pakistani based Harkat-ul-Ansar terrorist group.
Five days later, on July 9, one of the hostages, American John Childs, escaped from his captors.On August 13 the decapitated body of one of the hostages, a Norwegian, was found with the words "Al-Faran" carved on his body. A note left at the scene from the terrorists stated that the rest of the hostages would be executed if the Indian government did not comply with the hostage takers' demands. The Indian government was adamant in its refusal to submit to the demands of the militant terrorists, accusing Pakistani intelligence of planning the operation in order to incite instability in the Kashmir Valley.
On December 4, 1995, five Al-Faran members were killed in a skirmish with Indian security forces in Kashmir, and on December 11, 1995, the group released a note in Urdu claiming that after a run-in with the Indian army, three of the tourists held captive were arrested by the army, while the fourth one went missing. In September 1997, after receiving information from imprisoned Kashmiri terrorists, authorities exhumed the body of one of the missing four tourists. Tragically, the three remaining captives were never found by authorities and are presumed dead.
Hostage Crisis in Peru
On the evening of December 17, 1996, fourteen members of the Movimiento Revolucionario Tupac Amaru, also known as Tupac Amaru, or the MRTA, entered the Japanese ambassador's residence in Lima, Peru, during a reception and took five hundred people hostage. Among the hostages were eight American officials, a number of foreign ambassadors and diplomats, and numerous high-ranking Peruvian officials. To secure the perimeter the terrorists set up booby traps and mines around the residence. In exchange for the safe release of their hostages, the Tupac Amaru extremists demanded that the Peruvian government immediately release all imprisoned MRTA members and provide safe passage for both the freed MRTA members and the hostage takers. Within days the terrorists released over four hundred of their hostages, but kept nearly eighty high-ranking officials, including the Peruvian Foreign and Agricultural Ministers, the brother of Peruvian president Alberto Fujimori, and several supreme court justices.
A radical leftist revolutionary movement, the MRTA was formed in 1984 with the goal of replacing the established democratic system in Peru with a Marxist regime. Prior to the embassy hostage taking, Tupac Amaru rebels had been involved in a number of bombings, kidnappings, and assassinations in furtherance of their cause. One instance, uncovered in November 1995 before it could be fulfilled, resulted in the arrest of thirty extremists who had plotted to occupy the Peruvian congress with the goal of taking the members hostage in exchange for the release of imprisoned MRTA members.
During the successful hostage taking crisis at the Japanese ambassador's residence in 1996 the Peruvian government began negotiations with the hostage takers, but was unwilling to give in to their demands to release the imprisoned MTRA members. A number of governments, including the United Kingdom, Germany, and the United States, offered assistance to Peru, but President Fujimori refused all outside aid. Negotiations were further stalled when a Uruguayan court denied Peruvian and Bolivian extradition requests for two jailed MRTA militants and instead released the two terrorists from jail. The hostage takers immediately responded by releasing the Uruguayan ambassador they were holding hostage.
According to President Fujimori in a Time Magazine interview ("How They Did It," May 5, 1997) after the hostage crisis had been resolved, he had no intention of meeting any of the hostage takers' demands because he believed that the negotiations would prove to be unsuccessful. Unbeknownst to the guerrillas he was negotiating with, Fujimori was carefully planning a military assault against the hostage takers, while publicly showing his support for the negotiation process. On April 22, 1997, after four fruitless months of negotiation with the Tupac Amaru rebels, a team of Peruvian special operations forces stormed the residence and rescued the hostages. All fourteen of the terrorists were killed during the raid, as well as one Peruvian hostage and two soldiers.
In the case of the Peruvian hostage crisis, the successful release of the hostages from the Japanese ambassador's residence can be attributed to the Peruvian government's policy of refusing to make concessions to terrorists. Peruvian president Alberto Fujimori's unyielding refusal to release the imprisoned MRTA members allowed him time to plan and execute the successful hostage rescue operation in April 1997.
Hostage for Ransom
Most of the hostage taking incidents after the 1996 Peruvian crisis are cases of hostage for ransom demands. Although most of the hostage for ransom demands have been for money, some hostage takers have demanded out of the ordinary ransoms. In one unusual incident, a rebel group in Sierra Leone named the West Side Boys demanded college education abroad in exchange for the release of their hostages.
From 1995-2002 FARC rebels in Colombia were responsible for hundreds of hostage taking for ransom demands. On March 7, 1997, for example, FARC guerrillas kidnapped an American mining employee and his Colombian colleague while they were searching for gold. Both men were released on November 16 after the mining company paid $50,000 for their release. In October 1997 rebels in Yemen kidnapped and held four French tourists hostage, demanding $46,000 in ransom in exchange for their release. On March 23, 1999 the National Liberation Army (ELN) in Colombia took an American citizen hostage and demanded $400,000 in exchange for his release. In July the American was released after the ELN rebels received a markedly smaller ransom payment of $48,000.
There were two hostage taking incidents in 2000 which were particularly notable, as the hostage takers demanded unusually large cash ransoms in exchange for the release of their captives. The first incident occurred in April. On April 23, 2000, a number of armed gunmen belonging to the Abu Sayyaf group raided a diver's resort on Sipadan island off Malaysian Borneo, taking 21 foreign tourists and resort employees hostage. The Sipadan raid was the first known time the rebels had ever taken any foreigners hostage outside of the Philippines. In exchange for the release of their hostages, the Abu Sayyaf rebels demanded $1 million for each foreign hostage, as well as the establishment of an independent Muslim state in the southern Philippines.
The Philippine government refused to pay ransom to the terrorists, forcing the hostages to ask their respective governments to intervene on their behalf. The Libyan government intervened in the negotiations and acted as a mediator between the Abu Sayyaf terrorists and the governments of the Europeans held hostage. After a series of negotiations, Libya negotiated a reported $25 million ransom payment from the European governments to the terrorists, ultimately freeing the hostages. Abu Sayyaf used the funds to finance the groups' arms procurement and recruitment campaigns, and expanded its presence throughout the Philippines. Abu Sayyaf rebels continued to kidnap both Filipinos and foreigners throughout 2000 and 2001, issuing ransom and political demands in exchange for their release.
The second notable hostage taking in 2000 occurred in October, when a group of rebels in Ecuador took ten aviation company employees and oil workers hostage, including five American citizens. Two hostages managed to escape, and in December the group demanded $80 million in ransom in exchange for the release of the eight remaining hostages. The oil companies began negotiations with the rebels for the release of the hostages, but the rebels executed one of the American hostages in January 2001. On March 1, 2001, representatives of the oil companies successfully negotiated the release of the seven remaining hostages. It is unknown how much ransom money the rebels received in exchange for the hostages' release.
Recent History and the Future
In the past ten years there has been a marked increase in the number of hostage taking incidents worldwide. While the 1970s and 1980s were often characterized by hostage taking for political and ideological motivations, present day rebel groups are increasingly turning to hostage taking to finance terror activities. Terror groups in the Philippines and in Latin and South America have turned kidnapping into a growth industry.
Recognizing the threat to national and international security from terrorism in the Philippines, in January 2002, the U.S. government sent a military contingent to the Philippines to train Filipino soldiers to fight against the Abu Sayyaf group, which is believed to be linked to Osama bin Ladin's al-Qaeda terror network. Additionally, on May 7, 2002, the governments of Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines signed an anti-terror pact aimed at formalizing security coordination between the three countries in order to destroy militant terrorist cells operating in the region.
Regardless of the efforts of the international community to destroy terrorism in the region, it is unclear if they will be effective in ending the high number of hostage taking incidents that take place. This raises questions of the future of hostage taking in the Philippines and around the world. Will the upswing of hostage taking for ransom demands occurring throughout the world continue to grow? How will state governments stop this trend? Will rebels groups continue to demand ransom in exchange for their hostages or will they become bold with their success and demand other concessions from governments?
As of May 10, 2002, Abu Sayyaf rebels operating in the southern Philippines continued to keep Martin and Gracia Burnham as human bargaining chips in their campaign to create an independent Muslim state on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao. With both the Philippine and U.S. governments steadfastly refusing to negotiate with the Abu Sayyaf terrorists, the future of the American missionary couple held hostage—and the future of hostage taking through out the world—remains unknown.
Anderson, Terry. "Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act," Testimony of Terry Anderson before the United States House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Claims, April 13, 2000. Available online at http://www.house.gov/judiciary/ande0413.htm (cited May 3, 2002).
"Al Faran and the Hostage Crisis in Kashmir," SAPRAIndia, March 10, 1985. Available online at http://www.subcontinent.com/sapra/terrorism/tr_1996_03_001_s.html (cited May 4, 2002).
"International Terrorism: American Hostages," U.S. Department of State, October 17, 1995. Available online at http://www.state.gov/www/global/terrorism/fs_951017_amhostages.html (cited May 10, 2002).
Nelan, Bruce W. "How They Did It," Time, vol. 149, no.18, May 5, 1997.
Reagan, Ronald. "Speech by President Ronald Reagan," June 18, 1985. Available online at http://www.stethem.navy.mil/history/presidentspeech.htm (cited May 3, 2002).
Reeve, Simon. One Day in September: The Story of the 1972 Munich Olympics Massacre. London, England: Faber and Faber Ltd, 2000.
"Significant Terrorist Incidents, 1961-2001: A Chronology," U.S. Department of State, October 31, 2001. Available online at http://usinfo.state.gov/topical/pol/terror/01103131.htm (cited May 3, 2002).
Cheryl A. Loeb
September 5, 1972 A group of Palestinian terrorists belonging to an extremist faction of the Palestinian Liberation Army known as Black September take eleven Israeli athletes hostage at the Munich Olympic Games. The terrorists demand the release of more than two hundred compatriots imprisoned in Israel in exchange for the release of their hostages. Within 24 hours all hostages, five terrorists, and one German policemen lay dead.
November 4, 1979 Iranian militants storm the American embassy in Tehran, Iran, taking 66 American diplomats hostage.
December 18, 1979 The International ConventionAgainst the Taking of Hostages is opened for signature in New York City.
January 20, 1981 Iran releases the American hostages, who were held hostage for 444 days.
March 16, 1985 Chief Middle East correspondent for the Associated Press, Terry Anderson, is taken hostage in Beirut, Lebanon, by the Islamic extremist group Hizballah.
June 14, 1985 Lebanese terrorists hijack TWA flight 847 en route from Athens to Rome. The terrorists demand the release of 766 Shiite prisoners held in Israel in exchange for the release of the hostages.
October 7, 1985 Four Palestinian Liberation Front terrorists hijack the Italian cruise liner Achille Lauro, taking over seven hundred passengers hostage.
July 4, 1995 Six western tourists, including two U.S. citizens, are kidnapped and taken hostage in the Pahalgam area of the Kashmir Valley. A militant Kashmiri separatist group calling itself Al-Faran claims responsibility.
December 17, 1996 Fourteen members of the Movimiento Revolucionario Tupac Amaru (Tupac Amaru) take over five hundred people hostage during a reception at the Japanese ambassador's residence in Lima, Peru. Within days the terrorists release over four hundred of the captives, but keep nearly eighty high ranking officials as hostages.
April 22, 1997 A Peruvian special operations force storms the Japanese ambassador's residence and rescues the hostages. All fourteen Tupac Amaru terrorists are killed, as well as one hostage and two soldiers.
April 23, 2000 Abu Sayyaf rebels raid a diver's resort onSipadan island off Malaysian Borneo and take 21 foreign tourists and resort employees hostage.
October 12, 2000 Rebels in Ecuador take ten foreigners hostage and demand $80 million in ransom in exchange for their release.
May 27, 2001 American missionary couple Martin andGracia Burnham are kidnapped from a resort off the island of Palawan in the Philippines and held hostage by the rebel extremist group Abu Sayyaf.
January 23, 2002 Wall Street Journal correspondentDaniel Pearl is kidnapped and taken hostage in Karachi, Pakistan, while researching a story on the country's Islamic movement. A group calling itself "The National Movement for the Restoration of Pakistani Sovereignty" claims responsibility for the kidnapping and makes a number of demands in exchange for Pearl's release.
February 21, 2002 The U.S. government announces that it has received evidence that Daniel Pearl had been killed by his hostage takers.
Intent to Kill
On January 23, 2002, Wall Street Journal correspondent Daniel Pearl disappeared in Karachi, Pakistan, where he was researching a story on the country's Islamic movement. On January 28, 2002, a group calling itself "The National Movement for the Restoration of Pakistani Sovereignty" sent an email to the Wall Street Journal with a list of demands for the U.S. government. Included in the email were also pictures of Daniel Pearl in chains, and, in one photo, with a gun to his head. In its list of demands the group called for the release of a number of Pakistani nationals being held by soldiers at the U.S. military base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and in the United States as terrorism suspects. The hostage takers also demanded that the United States turn over a number of F-16 fighter jets purchased by Pakistan in the late 1980s, but never delivered.
On January 29 the group sent a second email, threatening to kill Pearl if all the demands were not met within a 24-hour time period. On January 30 U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell reiterated the U.S. policy not to negotiate with terrorists, and the terror group reacted by giving authorities one more day to respond to the hostage takers demands. Those demands were not met.
The U.S. government, on February 21, 2002, announced that it had received evidence that Daniel Pearl had been brutally killed by his hostage takers. A few days later the Department of State offered a $5 million reward under the Rewards for Justice Program for information leading to the arrest or conviction of the individuals responsible for the death of Daniel Pearl.
2,454 Days in Captivity
On the morning of March 16, 1985, American Terry Anderson, chief Middle East correspondent for the Associated Press, was kidnapped and taken hostage by the Islamic extremist group Hizballah as he returned home from a tennis match in Beirut, Lebanon. Held hostage for over six years, Anderson suffered frequent torture, beatings, and other abuse at the hands of his captors. Hizballah, also known as the Party of God, is a political and paramilitary terrorist organization operating out of Lebanon and supported by Iran. After spending nearly seven years—2,454 days—as a hostage in Lebanon, Anderson was released from his captivity on December 4, 1991.
The federal government in 1996 passed the Anti-terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, allowing Americans who were victims of terrorism in foreign countries to sue those countries in American courts if the U.S. State Department listed the country as a state sponsor of terrorism. In March 1999 Terry Anderson filed a $100 million lawsuit against the Iranian government, accusing it of sponsoring the Hizballah terrorists that kept him prisoner for more than six years. One year later, in March 2000, a federal judge ordered Iran to pay $341 million to Terry Anderson and his family as restitution for this time in captivity. It is unlikely, however, that Anderson will ever receive the money from Iran.
The Hijacking of Flight 847
On June 14, 1985, Trans-World Airline (TWA) flight number 847, en route from Athens to Rome, was hijacked by Lebanese terrorists associated with the Hizballah extremist organization and forced to fly to Beirut, where a number of the hostages were released. In exchange for the release of their remaining hostages, the Islamic terrorists demanded the release of 766 Shiite (Muslim) prisoners held in Israel. Over one hundred Americans were onboard the flight. The hijackers made the airline pilots fly to Algiers, Algeria, freed more hostages, and then forced the plane back to Beirut where, on June 15, they murdered a U.S. Navy diver on board. Seven American passengers were removed from the plane and taken to a secret location in Beirut, and once again the terrorists forced the airliner back to Algiers, where more hostages were freed. On June 16 the plane returned to Beirut, and after a number of days of negotiation, all the passengers were freed except for 32 Americans, who were removed from the plane by the terrorists and held hostage in Lebanon.
On June 24, after intense and complicated negotiations, the terrorists again demanded the release of the prisoners held in Israel, and also demanded that the United States remove its warships from Lebanese waters. Both the U.S. and Israeli governments refused to concede to the terrorists' demands. On June 30, however, all 39 remaining American hostages were released and the four terrorists responsible for the hijacking successfully escaped into Beirut. The very next day, on July 1, the Israeli government announced that it was planning to release over seven hundred Shiites imprisoned in Israel, stating that the decision was independent to the hijacking of the airliner and was not related to the release of the American hostages. In response to the event, the U.S. Department of State posted a $5 million reward under the Rewards for Justice Program for information leading to the arrest of the four terrorists.
Other significant hostage taking incidents in the 1980s include the October 7, 1985, hijacking of the Italian cruise liner Achille Lauro by four Palestinian Liberation Front terrorists. More than seven hundred passengers on the cruise liner were taken hostage and one American passenger was killed. The hostage taking ended when the Egyptian government offered the Palestinian terrorists safe haven in return for the release of the hostages. In January 1988 Hizballah members abducted a German citizen, demanding the release of two of their compatriots in exchange for the man's freedom, and in September 1989, the Sendero Luminiso, "Shining Path," a Peruvian rebel group, held two Newsweek reporters hostage, but released them after three days captivity. The Shining Path, as well as other terror groups around the world, continued to use hostage taking as a means to extract concessions from governments in the 1990s.
Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTOs)
In recognition of the threat to U.S. national security from international terrorist organizations, in October 1997, former secretary of state Madeleine K. Albright approved the first designation of thirty groups as foreign terrorist organizations (FTOs). Under the Anti-terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, which sets forth the legal guidelines of designating groups as foreign terrorist organizations, only groups that are foreign and who engage in terrorist activity that threatens the security of U.S. nationals or the national security of the United States can be placed on the list. Under legal provisions set forth in the Death Penalty Act, the secretary of state is required to designate foreign groups engaged in terrorist activity as FTOs every two years, however, organizations may be added to the list at any time.
Through placing foreign terrorist organizations on the list, the U.S. government makes it illegal for any person in the United States or anywhere under American jurisdiction to provide any type of support to these organizations, including financial assistance and material aid, such as the provision of weapons and safe houses.
Through designating groups as FTOs, the U.S. government hopes to not only increase awareness and knowledge among the general public about these groups, but also hopes that it will warn other governments and their citizens around the world of the danger these groups pose to international security. Raising awareness of these groups internationally will isolate them amongst the world community, deterring financial donations and other types of support to the organizations from their sympathizers.
Recent events in the United States following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon illustrate the importance of this law. In late 2001 and early 2002 federal authorities froze the assets of a number of charities and groups operating in the United States who are believed to have ties to al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden's international terrorist network, which was designated a foreign terrorist organization in 1999. Through cutting off funding and support to these terrorist organizations, it is hoped that the government can bring an end to or curb violent terrorist activities against the United States and its allies.
U.S. State Department Designated Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTOs) as of October 5, 2001
|FTO||Country/Region of Operation|
|Abu Nidal Organization (ANO)||Iraq, Lebanon, Middle East, Asia, Europe|
|Abu Sayyaf Group||Philippines|
|Armed Islamic Group (GIA)||Algeria|
|Basque Fatherland and Liberty (ETA)||Spain, France|
|Al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya (Islamic Group)||Egypt, international|
|HAMAS (Islamic Resistance Movement)||Occupied Territories, Israel|
|Harakat ul-Mujahidin (HUM)||Pakistan, Kashmir|
|Hizballah (Party of God)||Lebanon, global cells|
|Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU)||Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan|
|Al-Jihad (Egyptian Islamic Jihad)||Egypt, Middle East|
|Kahane Chai (Kach)||Israel and West Bank settlements|
|Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK)||Turkey, Middle East, Europe|
|Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE)||Sri Lanka|
|Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization (MEK)||Iran|
|National Liberation Army (ELN)||Colombia|
|Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ)||Israel, Occupied Territories, Middle East|
|Palestine Liberation Front (PLF)||Tunisia, Iraq|
|Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP)||Israel, Occupied Territories, Lebanon, Syria|
|PFLP-General Command (PFLP-GC)||Syria, Lebanon|
|Al-Qaeda||Afghanistan, global cells|
|Real IRA (RIRA)||Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, Britain|
|Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC)||Colombia|
|Revolutionary Nuclei (formerly ELA)||Greece|
|Revolutionary Organization 17 November||Greece|
|Revolutionary People's Liberation Army/Front (DHKP/C)||Turkey|
|Shining Path (Sendero Luminoso, SL)||Peru|
|United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC)||Colombia|