Archive for category Kidnap And Ransom

Industry Talk: Roelf Van Heerden And Men Lead PMPF Operation To Free MV Iceberg 1 Hostages

This is all types of cool. Basically the PMPF and their South African mentors/trainers rescued the hostages of the MV Iceberg 1 after a two week siege. This is significant, because this rescue/siege was conducted by a private South African force who commanded an assault force they trained, with the blessing of the Puntland government. And they rescued 22 hostages who had been held for over 1000 days, after a 10 day siege. Ross Perot, eat your heart out.

What is interesting about the account below is the tactics involved and how they adapted to the changing situation. And how Rolf van Heerden’s crew was able to finally resolve the siege using some recoilless weapons, minus the weapon sights. lol

“I asked Mohamed Farole if we could get hold of larger weapons or even mortars. I also talked personally to President Farole about the situation and he raised a concern that we might kill or injure the hostages. We did manage to get hold of a Soviet 82 mm B-10 recoilless rifle and a number of rounds and it wasn’t long before we had deployed it on the beach. With no sights available the crew took aim by aligning the weapon and the ship through the open breach and we fired a number of rounds, striking the vessel around the bridge area.
“The pirates on board obviously took fright and contacted the Puntland ambassador in Dubai to inform him that they wished to surrender but that we should stop shooting at them first. We held our fire on two occasions in an effort to give them the opportunity to surrender but, after a number of breakdowns in communication, I had had enough and we resumed the bombardment of the vessel with all available weapons.
“An old United States 106 mm recoilless rifle, unearthed from the rear of a private home, was the next heavy weapon to arrive, together with six rounds provided by the Puntland government. The aiming process was repeated and after two misses the crew found the correct range and four rounds smashed into the ship with resounding explosions, setting the vessel on fire. This effectively changed the pirates’ minds and they indicated that they really wished to surrender and talk.”

If you want a good primer on Roelf, check out his book called Four Ball One Tracer. He was a commanding officer for Executive Outcomes back in the day, and currently he works under the employ of the PMPF.

Now I am not sure if he is still with Sterling Corporate Services, Bancroft Global Development, or hired directly as a member of the PMPF? There was a lot of back and forth about money and the survival of the PMPF, and it is hard to say what the arrangement is now. All though it is obvious that the men of Sterling Corporate Services are still with the force, and they are still operating.

If you remember, SCS lost one of their men in a PMPF operation last year, and that put them on the map. The UN has been trying to shut them down because they are viewed as the competition that is making the UN look bad. lol Funny how the UN could support and oppose such a force, all at the same time?

With that said, there have been several sources that have identified the effectiveness of the SCS trained and mentored PMPF force, and a reduction in piracy could be attributed to their actions.

Building up indigenous ground forces has also helped. What has really thwarted pirate networks is a ground force known as the Puntland Maritime Police Force, according to an expert who has worked on the ground in Somalia. The PMPF is about 400 men, recruited locally and trained to be a professional anti-piracy police force. And it’s worked, says former Green Beret Roger Carstens, who is working on a project about Somalia and the maritime force and has spent much time on the ground there in recent months. “They basically went in and chased the pirates to keep them out,” Carstens told Situation Report. “That kept the pirates out of the pirate towns, where they staged their attacks, and it screwed [their] investors,” he said. But he warns that if support and resources ebb for the ground force, it could falter. That would be a good thing for the pirates.

“If they fail, you could easily see a resurgence of piracy writ large,” Carstens said, emphasizing that the concentration of pirate activity emanates from Puntland, an area of northeastern Somalia that was declared an autonomous state in 1998.

The other thing that I was curious about is who is paying for the PMPF now? I imagine that the UAE is still funding it. or maybe the owners of the Iceberg paid Puntland to conduct this rescue? Who knows and if anyone is familiar with the funding and survival of the PMPF, I am all ears. Either way, good on Roelf and company and good on the PMPF for rescuing these guys. –Matt


PMPF forces conducting operations to free crew of MV Iceberg 1.


Exclusive: South African-led operation frees hostages from Somali pirates
Written by Andrew Hudson
Tuesday, 29 January 2013 This is
In December 2012 the Puntland Maritime Police Force rescued 22 sailors who had been held hostage on board the Panama-registered ship Iceberg 1 for nearly three years – the longest period for any hostages held by Somali pirates. Roelf van Heerden, the South African commander of the ground force, gives an exclusive first-hand account of the operation.
The Iceberg 1, a 4 500 tonne roll on/roll off cargo vessel owned by Dubai-based Azal Shipping, was hijacked just ten nautical miles off Aden, Yemen, on March 29, 2010. She was carrying generators, transformers and fuel tanks and had a crew of 24 from Yemen, India, Ghana, Sudan, Pakistan and the Philippines.
The Iceberg 1 eventually ran aground in September 2011 off Garacad, a small coastal village in the Galmudug region on Somalia’s eastern seaboard. With two hostages dead, a continuing standoff between the owners and the pirates, and an exhausted, sickly crew of hostages, the last months of 2012 held little prospect of an end to the ordeal. That was until the Puntland Maritime Police Force (PMPF), under the command of a team of South Africans, took action.
Roelf van Heerden, who commanded the ground forces, is permanently employed by the PMPF and his main role, together with other South Africans, is to train the PMPF and deploy the police force. Van Heerden now takes up the story:
“On 28 October 2012 Mohamed Farole, son of Puntland’s President Abdirahman Mohamed Farole, called me at the headquarters of the PMPF in Bossaso and briefed me about the Iceberg. Mohamed, who is the director of the PMPF, also asked me to carefully assess whether the PMPF could undertake an operation aimed at freeing the hostages.
“All previous attempts to resolve the hijacking, including offers of a ransom, had failed due to disagreements between the parties on the ransom amount, the means and the location of the ransom transfer. The ship’s crew were also reportedly in a sorry physical and mental state. The first fatality, a Yemeni, was said to have committed suicide in October 2010 after continuous harassment by the pirates. The other fatality amongst the hostages was the first officer, Dhiraj Kumar Tiwari, who had been severely tortured by the pirates and had not been seen since September 2011.
“The vessel had also run out of fuel and the seasonal high winds had caused both the ship’s anchors to break loose allowing the vessel to drift helplessly onto the rocks. The Iceberg’s hull had ruptured and the lower hold containing eighteen very large generators in 12-metre containers had flooded.

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China: Enter The ‘Private Security’ Dragon

During the recent Sudan hostage crisis, The Wall Street Journal reported that the Sudanese troops who engaged in the rescue effort were joined by a dozen armed Chinese private security contractors. While that article and coverage of the issue in the Chinese media didn’t identify where the contractors came from, there’s a strong likelihood they were drawn from the same pool of former security forces personnel that Shandong Huawei recruits from and perhaps even came from the company. Chinese sources say it was the Sudanese military that told news outlets armed Chinese contractors were participating, so it appears that Beijing wants to keep its use of private security contractors out of the public eye.

Lately I have noticed an upward trend in reporting about China and it’s private security. These three articles below help to paint that picture of what I am talking about. We have a situation where China has interests all over the world, their people are getting killed and kidnapped all over the world in higher numbers, and security situations are changing for the worse in some of these places they have set up shop in.

Not only that, but now Chinese businesses are demanding more protection and they have the money to buy it. Especially if Chinese PSC’s charge less than western companies.

This first article below talks about the company Shandong Huawei Security Group. I have never heard of them before, and I could not find a link to their website. Although I doubt I would put a link up to their site for fear of getting some virus or whatever. lol Either way, Shandong Huawei is supposed to be one of their top PSC’s.

The article also described an interesting situation going on in Iraq. As the security situation degrades and there is now a lack of western forces to keep things in check, companies like Shandong Huawei are stepping in to fill that security vacuum in order to protect companies like the China National Petroleum Corporation. Oil is of national interest to China, as it is to many countries, and PSC’s are a part of their strategy to protect those national interests.

In the quote up top it mentioned Sudan and the involvement of security contractors in the rescue of kidnapped Chinese workers. There is oil in the Sudan and China definitely has interest there. And if PSC’s are actively involved in rescue operations like this, then it is not far fetched to imagine PSC’s entering other areas of security which would border more military-like operations. Will we see a company like Shandong Huawei evolve into more of a private military company?

The other thing mentioned in this article is the strategic implications of Chinese PSC’s. Here is the quote:

There are a number of strategic implications of this rise of armed private security providers by Chinese firms. For a start, if a project is in an area unstable enough to require armed private guards, there’s a significant probability of armed encounters between security providers and potentially hostile locals. Coupled with this is the fact that given their police and military backgrounds, the contractors are likely to look and comport themselves like soldiers, and would probably be armed with similar types of weapons. There’s real potential, then, for confusion on the ground in a place like Sudan when a private contractor who looks like a soldier engages rebels or others who then mistake him for an actual member of Chinese government forces. A local whose relative was shot near a Chinese drilling site by a security guard who looks like a soldier is likely to blame Beijing, which could spark additional violence against Chinese interests in the area.

Yep. And if the local insurgency/gang/criminal elements are not getting their cut, then expect these groups to attack these Chinese ventures.

The second article below is very interesting to me because it is written by Chinese journalists and actually discusses the lack of experience that Chinese PSC’s have compared to American PSC’s. That they should ‘study’ American PSC’s….or steal trade secrets about such things. lol Either way, I thought this was cool that the Chinese have recognized the west’s expertise in this area. Check it out.

Calls for security guards from China to accompany workers posted in dangerous areas overseas have increased since kidnappings in Sudan and Egypt underscored the danger workers face as Chinese companies expand globally.
The abductions highlight the urgency to ensure the security of Chinese workers overseas, said Han Fangming, deputy director of the foreign affairs committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference National Committee, on his micro blog.
Han said that there is a need to study how private security contractors in the United States, such as Academi, work and “when the time is right, the government might allow qualified companies” to establish such services…. Another factor to consider is how prepared the security services are to handle dangerous situations.
“I think security guards in China are far from the level of private security contractors like Academi in the US,” Fu said.

Yep. Private security contractors in the US, and our western partners, have all learned many hard lessons over ten years of warfare. If China plans on allowing PSC’s to do this kind of thing in war zones, then yes, they will be looking to all and any lessons learned in order to make that work. It is also a matter of Mimicry Strategy, and whatever works best, will be copied.

The final article discusses the enormity of the Chinese presence throughout the world. It also emphasizes the threat to these citizens and the upward trend of kidnappings. More kidnappings equals more ransoms. More ransoms paid equates to a creation of a kidnapping industry where individuals purposely target Chinese. That is the price China will pay if they plan on setting up shop in these dangerous parts of the world.

The dramatic rise in overseas travel and expatriate work by Chinese was punctuated by the recent kidnappings of Chinese workers in Sudan and Egypt. “Overseas Chinese protection” (haiwai gongmin baohu) has been a critical priority since deadly attacks killed 14 Chinese workers in Afghanistan and Pakistan in 2004. Between 2006 and 2010, 6,000 Chinese citizens were evacuated to China from upheavals in the Solomon Islands, East Timor, Lebanon, Tonga, Chad, Thailand, Haiti and Kyrgyzstan.
But a new urgency has arisen in the past year: in 2011, China evacuated 48,000 citizens from Egypt, Libya, and Japan; 13 Chinese merchant sailors were murdered on the Mekong River in northern Thailand in October 2011; and in late January 2012, some 50 Chinese workers were kidnapped in two incidents by Sudanese rebels in South Kordofan province and by Bedouin tribesmen in the north of Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula.
The worldwide presence of Chinese citizens – and the dependencies that generates – will only continue to grow: in 2012, more than 60 million Chinese people will travel abroad, a figure up sixfold from 2000, and likely to reach 100 million in 2020. More than five million Chinese nationals work abroad, a figure sure to increase significantly in the years ahead.

That is a lot of Chinese traveling and working throughout the world! As the word gets out amongst the thugs/terrorists/rebels of the world, we will continue to see this Chinese kidnap and ransom trend increase. That means more protection work, and more hostage rescue or negotiation work for this young Chinese PSC market. So yes, I would speculate that we are witnessing the rise of the Private Security Dragon and who knows where this will lead. –Matt

Enter China’s Security Firms
February 21, 2012
By Andrew Erickson & Gabe Collins
Chinese private security companies are seeing an opportunity as the U.S. withdraws troops from Iraq and Afghanistan. But plenty of complications await them.
A security vacuum is developing around Chinese workers overseas. The recent kidnapping of 29 Chinese workers in Sudan (where another worker was shot dead during the abduction) and 25 workers in Egypt has sparked a strong reaction in China. As a result, Beijing is looking to bolster consular services and protection for Chinese citizens working and travelling overseas. On the corporate side, private analysts are urging companies to do a better job of training employees before they are sent abroad. Yet with at least 847,000 Chinese citizen workers and 16,000 companies scattered around the globe, some of them in active conflict zones such as Sudan, Iraq, and Afghanistan, key projects and their workers are likely to require more than just an expanded consular staff to keep them safe.
It’s with an eye on this growing danger that new Chinese private security providers see a business opportunity. Shandong Huawei Security Group appears to be a leader among Chinese security providers, which thus far have predominantly focused on the country’s robust internal market for bodyguard and protective services. Huawei provides internal services, but in October 2010, opened an “Overseas Service Center” in Beijing. The company’s statement on the center’s opening explicitly cites the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, and the potential for a security vacuum to result, as key drivers of its decision to target the Iraq market.

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Industry Talk: Body Of UK Security Contractor Turned Over To Embassy In Iraq

The family can now get some closure and I am glad someone had the respect enough to finally hand over the body. It also looks like these captors killed him and his fellow guards as they were trying to escape. Back in those days, kidnapping usually turned into death by head cutting, and I am sure that is what was going through these guy’s minds at the time of escape. Rest in peace to the fallen and my heart goes out to the families and friends. –Matt


Alan McMenemy.

Body of UK hostage turned over to embassy in Iraq
January 20, 2012
The body of a British hostage kidnapped in Iraq in 2007 has been turned over to the U.K. Embassy in Baghdad, officials said Friday.
Alan McMenemy was one of five men kidnapped by Shiite militants in a daytime attack outside Baghdad’s Finance Ministry. McMenemy was part of a security detail guarding computer expert Peter Moore, who was released alive in 2010.
The bodies of the other bodyguards — Jason Swindlehurst, Jason Creswell and Alec MacLachlan — were returned in 2009.
British Prime Minister David Cameron said in a statement Friday that his thoughts were with McMenemy’s family and friends.
“They have waited so long for his return and I hope that this will allow them to find some peace after an ordeal that no family should ever have to suffer,” Cameron said.
The statement did not provide any detail as to how or under what circumstances McMenemy’s body was returned. He was long believed to be dead, and a second statement released on behalf of McMenemy’s widow Roseleen said that his body’s return “will allow us to properly grieve for him … we will draw some comfort from the fact that we have him home at last.”
Story here.

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Kidnap And Ransom: Security Firms Fight Tide Of Kidnappings In Venezuela

This year more than 1,000 traditional ransom kidnappings have been reported in Venezuela. Add to that a spike in the number of so-called secuestros express, or express kidnappings – in which victims are abducted and frog-marched to cash machines – and an unknown number of unreported crimes and the true toll is likely to be far higher. Venezuela’s National Statistics Institute claims that more than 16,000 people were kidnapped in 2009.

Wow, this is quite the problem in Venezuela, and no wonder security firms are busy there? –Matt


Security firms fight tide of kidnappings in Venezuela
Security has become a key election issue and private contractors are multiplying in Latin America’s abduction capital
Virginia Lopez in Caracas and Tom Phillips in Rio de Janeiro
Friday 18 November 2011
When the Venezuelan baseball star Wilson Ramos was freed from his two-day kidnapping ordeal last week he flung his arms around his rescuers and wept in disbelief. It was a desperate embrace that Miguel Dao recognised only too well.
“Rescuing somebody who has been kidnapped is one of those strange situations where the victim is forced to have total trust in a stranger,” said Dao, a 62-year-old Caracas-based kidnap negotiator. “A very special kind of bond arises.”
Once the head of the Technical Investigative Police, Venezuela’s answer to the FBI, Dao is now part of a growing team of negotiators and private security contractors battling to stem a tide of kidnappings in what has become Latin America’s abduction capital.

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Maritime Security: UN Reports That Piracy Ransoms Are Being Funnelled To Islamist Militants

C-level Maritime’s Frodl said the U.S. Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) carried out reviews of all potential ransom payments to determine if the pirate group in question had ever handed over part of a ransom to al Shabaab.
“Most times OFAC has authorized payment because it has found no link,” Frodl said. “But if there is indeed a 20% ’tax’ being applied by Shabaab against pirate ransoms in Haradhere, a major pirate hub it now controls, then things could change.”

Boy, this is very interesting if true. The consequences could mean that the payment of ransoms would be illegal, because that money would be funding terrorism. Although I have already talked about the jihadist privateer concept awhile back, so it does not surprise me that there would be a connection between Al Shabab and pirates.

It is just one way to fund their jihad, and it also helps the pirates be effective by supplying weapons and safe haven. 20 % is also a pretty sizable chunk.  Eventually I would imagine that the pirates would port somewhere else to avoid this jihad tax, or that Al Shabab would get into the business to cut out the non-affiliated pirate middle men. Interesting stuff. –Matt

Piracy ransoms funnelled to Islamist militants: U.N.

Jul 6, 2011
By Richard Lough funnelled
Ransoms paid to Somali pirates to free merchant vessels are ending up in the hands of Islamist militants, laying shipping groups open to accusations of breaching international sanctions, U.N. officials told Reuters.
John Steed, the principal military adviser to the U.N. special envoy to Somalia and head of the envoy’s counter-piracy unit, said links between armed pirate gangs and Somalia’s al Qaeda-affiliated rebels were gradually firming.
“The payment of ransoms just like any other funding activity, illegal or otherwise, is technically in breach of the Somalia sanctions regime if it makes the security situation in Somalia worse,” said Steed.
“Especially if it is ending up in the hands of terrorists or militia leaders — and we believe it is, some directly, some more indirectly,” said Steed, a retired military officer.

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Industry Talk: The Contractor POW’s And MIA’s Of Iraq And Afghanistan

I wanted to start a list for all those contractors and civilians that are still missing or are prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan. I should note that there is one MIA soldier in Iraq, and there is one soldier that is a prisoner of war in Afghanistan. But this post is dedicated to the contractors and civilians that far out number the military in terms of MIA or POW.

Of course these folks are all considered hostages by the Hostage Working Group in Iraq, and I assume there is a Hostage Working Group in Afghanistan. I choose to call them POW’s and MIA’s, despite how some might disagree with this classification.

The thing that concerns me the most right now about the situation in both countries, is as the wars wind down and western forces leave, these POW’s and MIA’s will still be there. Although contractors will still be hanging around in those war zones for some time after.

So with that said, I wanted to also put this post up top as a page with the hope that contractors or military folks out there will not forget about these missing or captured heroes. Better yet, if folks have any input or tips or anything in regards to these cases, they know where to go to get their voices heard.  Just write me, or make a comment on that page and help correct the record or bring attention to this.

The other thing that gets me here is the lack of accountability. The article below mentions 7 civilians/contractors missing in Iraq, and not 5 like wikipedia has mentioned. I imagine the overall numbers are not correct for the other missing people from various countries? Nor do these statistics go into how many local nationals are missing or are prisoners. Local nationals certainly contributed in these wars as contractors or as government soldiers/police, and their sacrifice should not be forgotten or ignored.

Never forget, and let’s get these folks home. –Matt

The wives of the missing 'Baghdad 4' South African contractors.

Contractors and Civilians Missing or Captured in Iraq (from Wikipedia)
5 Americans (7 according to the article below)
Kirk von Ackermann, disappeared on October 9, 2003 after leaving a meeting at FOB Pacesetter. His vehicle was found abandoned later that same day. He is presumed dead.
Timothy Bell, a contractor for Halliburton, went missing on April 9, 2004. He was never shown in a hostage video and is presumed dead.
Aban Elias, an Iraqi-American engineer from Denver, was shown being held hostage in a video on May 3, 2004. He has not been seen or heard from since.
Radim Sadeq Mohammed Sadeq, also called “Dean Sadek”, a businessman kidnapped on November 2, 2004, in Baghdad. He was shown in a video that month and in another video dated Christmas Eve but released in late January on NBC. He has not been seen or heard from since. His kidnappers demanded the release of Iraqi prisoners.
Jeffrey Ake, a contractor, was kidnapped on April 11, 2005, and shown in a videotape two days later. He has not been seen or heard from since. His kidnappers contacted his wife on the day he was kidnapped and demanded $1 million dollars in exchange for his release. After three weeks of negotiations, the kidnappers cut off all communication.
4 South Africans
Andre Durant, Callie Scheepers, Hardus Greeff and Johann Enslin, four contractors, were abducted at a bogus roadblock in Baghdad by unidentified men on December 10, 2006, along with five Iraqis. The Iraqis were released two days later. The kidnappers demanded $8 million ransom. Ten days after the abduction, Andre spoke to his wife briefly in a “proof of life” phone call. There were some talks that these four were still alive in January 2007, but since then there has been no word on their fate.
1 Egyptian
Samuel Edward, an engineer working for Iraqna Mobile Company, was kidnapped on September 26, 2005, in Baghdad. His Iraqi driver was left unharmed.
1 German
Sinan Krause, a technician at the Iraqi Foreign Ministry, was kidnapped on February 6, 2007, with his mother Hannelore in Baghdad. Their kidnappers demanded that Germany withdraw its troops from Afghanistan. Hannelore was released on July 10, 2007, but Sinan Krause hasn’t been seen or heard from since a video was released on September 11, 2007. The video was recorded before Hannelore was released. It showed Sinan saying goodbye to his mother. Their kidnappers issued a final 10 day deadline in the video for Germany to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan. They threatened to slit Sinan’s throat if their demand was not met. On April 24, 2008, his father appealed to the captors to release his son. The kidnappers ignored the plea.
2 Kenyans
Moses Munyao and George Noballa, engineers from the Iraqna telephone company, were reported kidnapped after an ambush on January 18, 2006. They were never found.
1 Palestinian
Rami Daas, a 26 year-old Palestinian student, was reported kidnapped by his family on May 9, 2005, by gunmen in the northern city of Mosul. His fate is unknown.

Contractors and Civilians Missing or Captured in Afghanistan (from Wikipedia)
5 Bangladesh
Imam Uddin, Mahbub Ali, Aminul Islam, “Lablu” and Mojibur Rahman of the Samwhan Corporation were five of seven workers kidnapped on Dec. 17, 2010 near Mazar-i-Sharif.
2 French
Stephane Taponier and Herve Ghesquiere, journalists for France 3, were taken hostage along with their translator, editorial fixer and driver by the Taliban in Afghanistan on December 30, 2009 They are the longest held foreign hostages in Afghanistan.
10 Iranians
Ten engineers were abducted in Farah Province near the border with Iran.
With Withdrawal Looming, Trails Grow Cold for Americans Missing in Iraq
May 21, 2011
BAGHDAD — The last Americans missing in Iraq followed disparate paths to an uncertain fate. They arrived from Indiana and North Carolina, Chicago and Denver. They came out of a sense of duty, in search of a paycheck, or hoping to reclaim a homeland they had fled decades earlier.
But the lives of the eight men — seven private contractors and the only American service member who remains unaccounted — are a painful fragment of the war’s legacy, a haunting piece of unfinished business that the military will leave behind when it withdraws by the end of the year.

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