Australia urges nations to refuse to pay ransoms to terrorists

More than $US120 million in kidnap ransom funds were channelled to terrorist groups between 2004 and 2012, according to a recent United Nations report.


The amount has increased since the rise of Islamic State, which raised $US45 million from kidnapping between September 2013 and September 2014 alone. In Africa’s Sahel region, kidnapping put an estimated $US89 million in the coffers of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb between 2013 and 2017.

In 2017, an estimated 8937 people were kidnapped as a result of terrorism.

Senator Payne said nations needed to work more collaboratively to cut off the threat of kidnappings by giving travellers more information on the risks in dangerous areas through government warnings on diplomatic, consular, passport, law enforcement or travel websites. They also needed to mobilise diplomatic, law enforcement and intelligence networks faster in the event of a kidnapping.

She said there were lessons to be learnt from the Iraq War, during which kidnap for ransom became a “growth industry” for terrorist groups. More than 15 countries participated in the Hostage Working Group set up in 2004, which exchanged intelligence and other information freely, and countries pooled their military and law enforcement resources to get kidnap victims back.

“Nations were not left on their own to find their own solution using only their own resources,” Senator Payne said.

But she said no member nation was allowed to pay a ransom, whatever happened, in order to break the business model of the terrorist kidnappers.

“Such an approach could be examined once more and extended more widely,” she said. “It is clearly not in our collective national interests to pay ransoms. Paying more ransoms means suffering more kidnappings, and then the demands for higher ransoms per kidnapping will surely follow.”

Senator Payne said while governments stood by the families of the kidnap victims by providing information and support, they must also encourage them not to pay a private ransom.

“Of course we want our citizens back when they have been kidnapped. However, returning one of our citizens to safety today is a high price to pay if it means another is kidnapped tomorrow. And the next day and the next,” Senator Payne said.

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