Book Reviews: Behind Mask of Hostage-Taking; Hostages by John C. Griffiths. Published (Hardback) by Carlton Publishing Group, London. Pounds 17.99

The News Letter (Belfast, Northern Ireland), November 8, 2003 | Go to article overview

Book Reviews: Behind Mask of Hostage-Taking; Hostages by John C. Griffiths. Published (Hardback) by Carlton Publishing Group, London. Pounds 17.99


Byline: RAYMOND HUGHES

IN a week which saw former INLA kidnapper Dessie O'Hare take his first steps to freedom in 16 years, the savage practice of hostage-taking is back in the spotlight.

But hostage-taking as a means of leverage has been with us since recorded history. Indeed, the first such instance may be Ireland's Mound of the Hostages (Duma na n Giall), which dates back some 4,500 years.

Author John C. Griffiths pores over some of the more infamous hostage situations, including the Moscow theatre siege when 129 people died alongside 40 Chechen rebels when Russian troops stormed the building, as he attempts to give an insight into the minds of hostage-takers and the ordeals of their victims.

He also dispenses with the notion that all hostages are grabbed by invading forces, explaining how many nations voluntarily sent prisoners to their neighbours or rivals as a peace offering and/or to fend off attack. When slave traders arrived in Africa, local tribes, Griffiths explains, would send hostages to their ships to ingratiate themselves with their new white masters (It didn't work, of course).

Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of Griffiths' book is the importance he attaches to the psychological battles played out between captor and captive - he singles out Belfast hostage Brian Keenan and his 'cell-mate', John McCarthy for mention. …

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