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Thursday, January 17, 2013


With the recent hostage taking in Algeria, there was an article today at The Atlantic about the difficulty of rescuing hostages - Massacre in Algeria: In hostage situations, the leverage is almost always with the captors. It mentions the many hostage situations in the past which have gone wrong, like the one in Iran that's touched on by the movie Argo, and it mentions one of the most successful hostage rescues - Entebbe - in which the Israelis saved 105 of 108 hostages and lost their commander, Yonatan Netanyahu. This reminds me of a past movie, Proof of Life ....

Proof of Life is a 2000 American film, directed by Taylor Hackford. The title refers to a phrase commonly used to indicate proof that a kidnap victim is still alive. The film's screenplay was written by Tony Gilroy, who also was a co-executive producer, and was inspired by William Prochnau's Vanity Fair magazine article "Adventures in the Ransom Trade," and Thomas Hargrove's book The Long March To Freedom in which Hargrove recounts how his release was negotiated by Thomas Clayton, played by Russell Crowe, who went on to be the founder of kidnap-for-ransom consultancy Clayton Consultants, Inc.

As the Atlantic article mentions, part of the problem of saving hostages has to do with why they've been captured in the first place .....

In Algeria, the kidnappers’ objective in taking the hostages remains murky. While spokesmen used grand terms of a reprisal against the West because of operations in Mali against Islamist militants, the captors’ leader—Mokhtar Belmokhtar, who may have been killed in the operation—is notorious for high-ransom kidnappings and cigarette smuggling (his nickname is Mr. Marlboro.). In 2009, Germany and Switzerland paid his group $8 million for the release of four Westerners including two Canadian diplomats. This suggests that the kidnappers might have been prepared to bargain for the captives’ release. But Galeotti is doubtful that the captors would have been swayed by money. “When you entrench yourself, you are making a statement,” he said. “Jihadists would not have wasted the situation.”

More of the situation from TIME - Algeria’s Hostage Crisis: What Was Behind a Shadowy Militant Leader’s Plot?


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