Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Today's Kidnappers Are in It for the Money ; Hostage-Takers like Those in Philippines Act More for Financial Than Political Gain

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Today's Kidnappers Are in It for the Money ; Hostage-Takers like Those in Philippines Act More for Financial Than Political Gain

Article excerpt

The kidnapping of three Americans in the Philippines, and the apparent murder of one, is a warning to American tourists planning to go abroad this summer for vacation. The advice: Be careful where you go.

While most of the globe is perfectly safe, travelers would be wise to consider staying away from the few nations where abduction is a serious threat.

The latest kidnappings also reveal the shifting motivations of some extremist groups today. Instead of trying to make a political statement, many are simply out for the money.

"There are pockets in the world where hostage-taking has become almost a business as well as a political statement," says Mitchell Hammer, a terrorism expert at American University here.

Hostages are seized. Ransom is demanded and paid, and the hostages are usually released. Then others are taken and the cycle repeats.

It is a kidnapping pattern apparently under way in the Philippines, although the government in Manila has said that in the instance of the three Americans captured by rebels on May 27, it will not provide ransom.

While kidnappings like these - wherever they occur - frequently capture headlines, the total number of incidents has not risen appreciably in recent years. "Globally, it has not increased," says Michael O'Hanlon, of the Brookings Institution, a Washington-based think tank.

The current on-the-ground kidnappings are quite different from the hijacking of passenger-filled aircraft a few decades ago. Then, seizing planes was done largely to make a political statement - to the world or an individual country.

Often, too, the hijackers would demand that some prisoners be released. Today's abductions are more about robbery.

Terrorism, of whatever kind, tends to increase in individual nations as tensions rise, and fall when they ebb. "It's an up-and- down situation," says Mary-Jane Deeb, an Arab specialist with the Library of Congress and international relations professor at American University.

At present, some 70 percent of the world's kidnapping, Mr. Hammer says, occurs in three South American nations that are undergoing various kinds of tensions - Colombia, Peru, and Ecuador. …

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