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North Africa Topics specific to North Africa and the Sahara down to the 17th parallel (excludes Morocco)
Photo by Michael Jordan, enjoying a meal at sunset, Zangskar Valley, India

I haven't been everywhere...
but it's on my list!


Photo by Michael Jordan
enjoying a meal at sunset,
Zangskar Valley, India



Trans Sahara Routes.

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  #2  
Old 3 Jun 2009
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Fu--ing bastards!

Pedro
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  #3  
Old 4 Jun 2009
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If the statement by AQIM proves to be true, my thoughts are with the family of the victim. This does however raise serious questions about the British government's refusal to pay ransom money or negotiate.

While I am not suggesting that paying ransoms is appropriate in all situations, it seems that the vast majority of recent kidnappings of westerners in North Africa (ie Austrians in Tunisia etc) have been successfully resolved by the payment of a ransom. This suggests that either AQIM, the GSPC, or whichever local variation of these groups is responsible, is primarily motivated by money, rather than political means.

Where hostage death have occured they have generally been by dehydration / stress caused by capitivity, or due to a shoot-out with government forces. This would appear to be a rare case where the hostage takers have executed the hostage.

As travellers we all know the risk of entering regions where the politicial climate is not stable, and therefore we don't necessarily expect a government to bail us out, but it would still be nice to know that government policy is not so inflexible as to rule out negotiation / ransoms, where this may result in successfully freeing a hostage.
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Old 4 Jun 2009
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Matt Roach View Post
...but it would still be nice to know that government policy is not so inflexible as to rule out negotiation / ransoms, where this may result in successfully freeing a hostage.
I find this approach rather selfish, as paying a ransom to free you--who basically decided to go joy-riding in a potentially dangerous location--puts others at risk, including those in the same area for a better reason (government service, charity work, etc.).

I don't know the particulars regarding this hostage, but it is very possible that he was kidnapped precisely because of the example set by the ransom paid for the Austrians or other kidnap victims.

If you want to go to these areas, more power to you, but I don't think it is reasonable to expect your government to pay for your release.
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Old 4 Jun 2009
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Click the links above: it was not as simple as just paying up to release Edwin Dyer as with the other hostages who were let go. In his case they wanted a guy called Abu Qatada released from a UK prison.

Ch
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Old 4 Jun 2009
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They were kidnapped last February provably at Niger by locals tuaregs and then sold to ALQMI for MONEY!
ALQMI are introducing in Sahara being useful the bad situation of tuareg and with money from Arabia Saudi.
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Old 4 Jun 2009
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Chris,

Agreed, but it is worth noting that the hostage takers of the Austrians in Tunisia also initially demanded the release of prisoners held in Algeria & Tunisia, as per the attached BBC link.

BBC NEWS | World | Africa | Chancellor urges hostage release

Whilst every case is clearly separate, a consistent theme seems to be arising. Kidnap a westerner, demand the release of militants from jail, accept this wont happen and then settle on a ransom in exchange for releasing the hostage.

Motoreiter - my point wasn't whether we should expect to be released by our governments paying a ransom, rather it was that the outright refusal by the British government to pay ransoms is not helpful, and removes a potential bargaining chip, which has successfully been used by several European governments in the past to obtain the release of their citizens.

Last edited by Matt Roach; 9 Jun 2009 at 21:01.
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Old 4 Jun 2009
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... a consistent theme seems to be arising. Kidnap a westerner, demand the release of militants from jail, accept this wont happen and then settle on a ransom in exchange for releasing the hostage.

Yes Matt, that seems to have been a pattern before. I do recall that when the Austrians were grabbed I believe it was said that they were disappointed they were not Brits/French/US - possibly because they have more guys like Abu Qatada in custody?

Also, unless it's been verified somewhere (by the already released hostages in Europe who experienced the transaction) I must say do find this 'selling on by Niger Tuareg [rebels] to AQIM' angle a bit fishy. We heard similar with the Austrians.

Either way it is depressing that a regional precedent has now been set to kill the hostage when they don't get what they want.

Ch
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Old 4 Jun 2009
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Originally Posted by Chris Scott View Post
I must say do find this 'selling on by Niger Tuareg [rebels] to AQIM' angle a bit fishy. We heard similar with the Austrians.
Ch

You can certainly imagine the Malian/Niger Govt. taking the opportunity to ladle heat onto rebel factions. But on the other hand – a handful of Islamists on tour from Algeria acting alone? Perhaps there is no simple truth, money does a great job of blurring ideology and motive.

Sad news indeed. Sympathies to the family.
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Old 4 Jun 2009
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how safe do you think it would be for a yank alone in a baja bug? especially if i have to keep my plates of origin on my car? marko
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Old 4 Jun 2009
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The englishman was kidnapped together with the three other europeans near the Niger border.
The involvement of tuaregs should be questioned - most tuaregs will deny that tuaregs are involved in the kidnappings. Have the canadians that were kidnapped told their story? The Niger and Mali governements are always likely to blame tuaregs,

This was the first killing of a hostage held for ransom in the Sahara I believe. Perhaps this will change the laissez-faire attitude of the French and the Malians.

Apparently there is no advantage having a US or UK passport.

A very sad development.
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Old 4 Jun 2009
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What about the suisse guy who's kidnapped togehter with the english guy. I suppose he's still in the hands of AQIM. Or not?
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Old 5 Jun 2009
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Ransoms are not the answer

I really don't see how paying ransoms helps the situation. We are all more at risk if any old bandit let alone serious extremists think they can at least earn a good ransom by taking a tourist. Now, if a group of bandits - and lets face it all this talk of Al Q is far fetched, I certainly don't think they were taken initially by Al Q - takes a bunch of tourists they have to be damn sure about their resolve if they take a Brit whereas if they take a Swiss or a German they know they could be in for a big pay day.
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Old 5 Jun 2009
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Unanswered questions

Quote:
Originally Posted by priffe View Post
The englishman was kidnapped together with the three other europeans near the Niger border.
The involvement of tuaregs should be questioned - most tuaregs will deny that tuaregs are involved in the kidnappings. Have the canadians that were kidnapped told their story? The Niger and Mali governements are always likely to blame tuaregs,

This was the first killing of a hostage held for ransom in the Sahara I believe. Perhaps this will change the laissez-faire attitude of the French and the Malians.

Apparently there is no advantage having a US or UK passport.

A very sad development.
I wholeheartedly agree. I very much doubt that they were taken by Tuaregs, certainly not Malian Tuaregs. I was in Mali at the time in the Adrar des Iforas and no one would accept that it was rebels - even rebels! It wouldn't make sense, and certainly wouldn't help their cause but just allow the government to paint them as extremist. What was odd at the time of the taking was that the vehicles were found with all the luggage. Now if it was bandits or rebels why would they have abandoned the vehicles? At the time I heard that they had come from Niger and were returning to Niger. I havent heard that since so not sure about that, but if that was the case it makes it more worrying because it could suggest that more official people knew their movements. Who would gain advantage by kidnapping tourists and blaming Tuaregs? Who would not care about the vehicles?
I may well be barking up the wrong tree here but this was the talk in mali at the time. Also nobody could understand why the Malian government weren't coming out and insisting that the hostages were not taken in Mali.

And listening to the news you'd think the whole thing took place in Mali.
Tragedy for the family, tragedy for Mali, tragedy for all of us who know how safe Mali is.
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Old 5 Jun 2009
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What I think:

... a handful of Islamists on tour from Algeria acting alone?

While there are obviously cells in the northeast of Alg, it is my impression that the AQIM are also based in northern Mali - whether it's the Iforhas (Tuareg country) or further west as far as Mori, I've never worked out. And although the BBC report suggests it lazily, AQIM are probably not all 'Algerians' either.

....any old bandit let alone serious extremists think they can at least earn a good ransom by taking a tourist.

In this part of the Sahara (Tuareg/Berabish) there was no precedent for 'bandits' taking hostages for money until 2003 - and GSPC were not bandits. AFAIK, criminal activity in the Sahara is based around far less risky but reliably lucrative smuggling (and the odd heist). Last I knew the south Algerians turn a blind eye to part of it and one good cig run could earn you a 79 pickup. It takes long-term commitment to be burdened with keeping hostages alive and negotiating a ransom with their governments - more than just greed and a handful of Thurayas.

...and lets face it all this talk of Al Q is far fetched, I certainly don't think they were taken initially by Al Q

I wonder why you say that. Local 'tribesmen' (as the BBC calls them) making an opportunistic grab for a quick buck - that sounds less likely to me than a planned AQIM operation tracking the Oase Reisen tour well away from the better known (and better protected?) music festivals.

... they have to be damn sure about their resolve if they take a Brit whereas if they take a Swiss or a German they know they could be in for a big pay day.

Good point which someone else suggested to me. Following Edwin Dyer's execution Brits may be less valuable as hostages, but I'm not sure I'd want to put it to the test.

Now if it was bandits or rebels why would they have abandoned the vehicles? ... Who would not care about the vehicles?

AQIM. They have all the vehicles and other gear they want and are more driven by ideology and millions of euros than a couple more TLCs. It's the same reason they were abandoned in 2003 Alg and 2008 Tuni: it shows AQIM-type commitment not a run of the mill heist like in the Gilf last year or most years in the Aïr. Vehicle snatching in parts of the Sahara has long been a relatively commonplace activity where the victims were left unharmed.

Who would gain advantage by kidnapping tourists and blaming Tuaregs

We know who - the local govts to have it parroted by the media - but it seems most of us here have not fallen for this line; it's as transparent as blaming Iraq for 9-11.

The whole Niger element could be a red herring IMO. That Anderamboukane is near the border is coincidental but may have helped imply Nigerans (ie: 'Tuareg') were involved while they race back up to the Iforhas or wherever. It is true that when these attacks/kidnappings happen it's normal for the host country to blame bandits from the neighbouring country.

And listening to the news you'd think the whole thing took place in Mali.

My feeling is that it did and it is. Mali is different from Niger in that the Tuareg share the outlaw north Mali with the Berabish who are happy to stay below the radar while getting on with business and who it is said have closer ties with AQIM.

Ch
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