Kidnaping for ransom has become a multi-billion dollar global phenomenon and is occurring more frequently in locations across the globe, according to a report by crisis assistance company, Red 24.
The list of top ten riskiest areas shows that historically risky locations such as Mexico, Venezuela and Colombia continue to experience very high levels of kidnapping, hostage taking, piracy and extortion. However, places such as Iraq, Pakistan and Nigeria also feature.
The locations were pinpointed by security analysts using a variety of criteria, including official and unofficial statistics, anecdotal evidence, overall crime levels and the kidnap risk posed by issues such as political instability, terrorism and police corruption.
Locations where kidnap for ransom has been identified as a significant or growing threat include Afghanistan, Somalia, the Sahel-Sahara region of Northern Africa, Kenya, India, China, Yemen and the Philippines, although not all of them made it on to the top 10.
Many kidnappings are not reported for fear of retaliation or police corruption and ineptitude. However, the official data available - covering Nigeria, Venezuela, Mexico, Colombia, plus piracy victims off Somalia and NGO kidnap victims in Afghanistan - reveals that there was a 9% cent increase in kidnapping incidents between 2010 and 2011.
Maldwyn Worsley-Tonks, chief executive of Red 24, said: "Our report confirms that kidnap for ransom is a growing, global threat. The crime, which was once synonymous with Colombia and the wider Latin America region, has spread to more locations across the world, making it a risk that both businesses sending employees abroad and individual travellers cannot afford to ignore.
Afghanistan was among the top ten worst locations for kidnappings, with around 950 kidnappings for ransom per year.
Somalia, where the offshore threat is well established, also featured with 24 vessels seized in 2011 and over 400 hostages taken, 265 still held captive currently.
Official statistics reveal over 15,000 kidnappings in Pakistan, with the true number likely to be higher due to underreporting, however, only 10-20% of abductions are for ransom, Red 24 said.
Yemen was also among the ten worst, with over 200 foreign nationals kidnapped over the past 20 years.
According to the report, Venezuala has the worst per capita abduction rates. Official statistics revealed over 1,000 kidnappings for ransom in the first ten months of 2011.
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