Geopolitical Overview

Threat Breakdown

Geopolitical Overview
The perspective on the year 2016 is quite a controversial one. There are those with an almost apocalyptic vision, who predict that we are headed toward "the perfect storm” created by the stock market crash, another real estate collapse, and skyrocketing unemployment rates.

On the other hand, there is a more optimistic outlook from those who forecast a weak, yet steady recovery. Economists are analyzing the maze of objective economic signs and interpreting them subjectively, which leads to certain expectations and more worries. How do we proceed from that point? Who is to be believed and what can be expected? 

Despite pessimistic views out there, we all want to hold on to a glimmer of hope for our future, as well as our children’s future. As a result, when undesirable news reaches us, there is a tendency to block them out and apply the concept of "If I did not hear of it, it does not exist”, which for some is often a survival tactic. Understanding our world, however, is the basic prerequisite for shaping our life and happiness.

The Expert Forecast

The International Monetary Fund projects the world economy at 3.4 percent in 2016 and 3.6 percent in 2017, both years down 0.2 percentage points from the previous estimates in last October. 

Moreover, it stresses the idea that policymakers should consider ways to bolster short-term demand. IMF released an updated World Economic Outlook forecasts as global markets have been roiled by worries over China’s slowdown and plummeting oil prices.

It maintained its previous China growth forecast of 6.3 percent in 2016 and 6.0 percent in 2017, which represents sharp slowdowns from 2015. China reported that growth for 2015 hit 6.9 percent after a year in which the world’s second biggest economy endured huge capital outflows, a slide in the currency and a summer stock market crash. 

Shares in Europe and Asia rose and the dollar gained after China’s data was released, as investors anticipated greater efforts by Beijing to spur growth. Concerns about Beijing’s grip on economic policy have shot to the top of global investors’ risk list for 2016 after falls in its stock markets and the yuan stoked worries that the economy may be rapidly deteriorating.

A steeper slowing of demand in China remained a risk to global growth and weaker-than-expected Chinese imports and exports were weighing heavily on other emerging markets and commodity exporters.

Soft consumer demand in the United States and Japan and weakness in emerging markets due to worries over plunging oil and commodity prices and capital outflows from China are among the main risks.

Furthermore, the Fund states that the outlook for an acceleration of U.S. output was dimming as dollar strength weighs on manufacturing and lower oil prices curtail energy investment. It now projects U.S. economic growth at 2.6 percent for both 2016 and 2017, down 0.2 percentage point in both years from the October forecast.

In Europe, lower oil prices will help support private consumption; therefore, IMF has added 0.1 percentage point to its 2016 euro area growth forecast, bringing it to 1.7 percent, where it will remain for 2017. 

Brazil will stay mired in recession in 2016, with output contracting 3.5 percent, a 2.5 percentage-point downward shift from the previous forecast, and there will be essentially no growth in 2017 as Latin America’s largest economy struggles with lower Chinese demand. 

Forbes magazine contributor Bill Conerly reflected on the International Monetary Fund forecast, considering that the commoditydependent countries, Latin America, Africa and parts of Asia are facing difficult times. Commodity prices being so down, it represents cutback in mining, petroleum and agriculture.

Conerly suggests that the world will probably grow a little bit slower than the IMF forecast. From the environment to international security and the coming Fourth Industrial Revolution, the World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report 2016 finds risks on the rise in 2016. In this year’s annual survey, almost 750 experts assessed 29 separate global risks for both impact and likelihood over a 10-year time horizon.

The risk with the greatest potential impact in 2016 was found to be a failure of climate change mitigation and adaptation. This year, it was considered to have greater potential damage than weapons of mass destruction (2nd), water crises (3rd), large-scale involuntary migration (4th) and severe energy price shock (5th).

The number one risk in 2016 in terms of likelihood, meanwhile, is large-scale involuntary migration, followed by extreme weather events (2nd), failure of climate change mitigation and adaptation (3rd), interstate conflict with regional consequences (4th) and major natural catastrophes (5th).

At the top end of the scale, 2016’s two most interconnected risks – profound social instability and structural unemployment or under-employment – account for 5% of all interconnections. 

As an annex to this article our readers will find data sheets with excerpts from a 2016 Threat Forecast provided by Red24, a leading security company, focusing on various political, security and kidnapping risks by region in the year ahead. This information will provide a realistic and alarming overview of threats for the year 2016.

Maritime Crime

The threat from piracy and other forms of maritime crime, in particular robbery at sea, will remain elevated in a number of regions worldwide in 2016. Piracy will continue to pose a specific security risk in the Gulf of Guinea as well as South East Asia. While the majority of pirate attacks are expected to continue in the abovementioned regions, the possibility of incidents occurring elsewhere cannot be discounted.

The gradual extension of the geographical spread will likely continue in 2016. A continuation of 2014 and 2015 trends regarding the nature of attacks in Nigerian waters and its evolution from oil siphoning and bunkering to increasingly well-coordinated and often violent attacks targeting commercial shipping vessels and their crew, including longer-term hijacking and KRE incidents, should also be anticipated.
This risk is highlighted by a number of incidents of this nature in 2015.

Maritime security in the waterways surrounding Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Singapore has been a longstanding concern in the region and is expected to remain so in 2016.

According to IMB reports in mid-2015, pirates attacked a tanker approximately every two weeks in South East Asian waters during the preceding six months. In a high-profile incident highlighting this trend, which took place on 8 August, a Singapore-registered small oil tanker, MT Joaquim, was seized in the Malacca Strait off the coast of Malaysia.

The 2015 uptick in attacks in Vietnamese waters and in the Singapore Strait itself will also need to be monitored closely in 2016. Regional and international concerted security efforts, particularly on-board security measures and national and international counter-piracy efforts continue to contribute to the ongoing major decline in Somalia-based piracy since the end of 2011. 

Nonetheless, the regional piracy threat has not been eliminated and there are regional and international concerns regarding a potential uptick in pirate activity. Following no reported incidents for the first six months of 2015, an Iranian-flagged fishing vessel was hijacked and at least ten crew members kidnapped by suspected pirates off Somalia’s eastern coastline on 22 November.

Open source information indicates that the approximate cost to the shipping industry of additional counter-piracy security measures in East African waters totaled US $1.3 billion in 2014; war risk and KRE insurance premiums on vessels transiting this region were an additional US $103 million.

In addition to the above-mentioned regions, the risks of piracy and robbery at sea extend to waters elsewhere. In the Indian subcontinent, there has been a rise in attacks off the coast of Bangladesh over the past 18 months.

Piracy and armed robbery will continue to pose a potential security risk in South and Central America and the Caribbean, particularly in the vicinity of ports and anchorages in Brazil, Peru, Haiti, Ecuador and Guatemala. Sporadic incidents in this region, such as an attack on a luxury yacht, Pelikaan, in Haitian waters in April, underscore the ongoing risk. Furthermore, an uptick in incidents has been recorded in Venezuela in recent months, particularly near Lake Maracaibo.

Information Security

Information security remains a pervasive threat to business, and travelers often do not have the same protection as when working in their offices. Internet security risks increase the pressure on governments for greater regulation in the years to come.

It is imperative that all stakeholders, from government to businesses, academics and consumers, collaborate to ensure that regulations are comprehensive, proactive and improve the security and privacy vulnerabilities of connected devices. For enterprises seeking to take advantage of new IoT technologies, one of the keys to success will be to ensure that new technologies are impervious to cyber-attacks.

The accelerated increase in the use of technology is already demonstrating impact on how traditional kidnap for ransoms are perpetrated and managed. On the one hand, this can be positive for both the potential victims and for those seeking to release them.

For example, Aegis Response has noted a shift away from negotiations taking place via telephone calls, to email negotiations with kidnappers, with Islamic State almost exclusively using this form of communication for their demands. This gives a crisis management team the luxury of time in a less pressured environment, enabling them to reach a decision on strategy and to craft an ideal response "behind closed doors”. 

In terms of proof of life, there are many more options for verification – video voice calls, for example – that can provide extra assurance that a victim is alive and being held by the group in question. However, the almost blanket use of forms of social media and popular messaging applications creates new problems in the kidnap for ransom arena. 

Victims can now be vulnerable to simple reconnaissance on their personal wealth gleaned from photos posted online and employment information, which kidnappers can investigate from the comfort of their own homes, choosing from a wide range of potential victims. 

There have been cases of kidnappers with sophisticated cyber capability conducting research on their victims’ bank accounts, abducting them, and then forcing them to simply use their online bank accounts to personally transfer a specific ransom amount for their release.

While bitcoin, the anonymous currency, is used extensively in cyber extortions, it is spilling over into the realm of kidnap for ransom: we have begun to see cases where kidnappers have demanded to be paid ransoms in this crypto currency.

For instance, in October, an executive from Hong Kong was released after being kidnapped and held in Taiwan for over a month by a gang demanding a ransom of US $9 million in bitcoin.

Over the coming year, the trajectory of this technological shift will proceed rapidly and – for better or worse – further changes are likely in the field of traditional kidnap for ransom.

In conclusion, based on all the evidence, we can safely deduce that the risk of Kidnap and Ransom is here to stay for the year to come. We live in a world of continuous challenges, as well as evolving dangers. Facing those means understanding our circumstances. Acquiring knowledge on our surroundings, keeping informed on where our world is headed is "sine qua non” for our survival. 

Let us be equipped for the battle for our future and our children’s future, armed with knowledge and an accurate vision of our world, while never losing sight of the wonderful things humanity has built; the acts of greatness and charity that make the human race something so important to fight for. 

Threat Breakdown

Towards the end of 2015, some of the key political and security risks facing the globe were starkly highlighted by developments in Europe, traditionally a secure business and travel zone.

The migration of tens of thousands of people into the region from conflict-ridden and economicdepressed states in Africa, Asia and the Middle East not only impacted on intra and inter-state transport but also disrupted the movement of persons and goods across borders, as states moved to restrict the flow of asylum seekers.

The Paris attacks in November compounded regional unity concerns and highlighted, again, the far reach of Islamist extremist ideology. The link between migration and militants was the focus of far right and leftist groupings, which have continued to seek to benefit from popular concerns regarding the longer-term influence the flow of migrants will have on local states.

In the coming year, there will be a persistent threat of terrorism from international Islamist extremist groups and self-radicalized individuals and an increased frequency in low-level incidents of violence that will be confined to countries that have existing political and social tensions and which are some of the key target locations for migrants, including Germany, France, Italy, Greece and Hungary.

The year ahead will be characterized by a more militarized Europe, the rise of nationalist parties, as well as increased protest activity and associated low-level acts of violence. Non-traditional kidnapping variants, in their physical and virtual forms, will pose the most significant risk across Europe and Russia in 2016. Countries that already have an entrenched organized crime element may be subject to an elevated risk; these may include Russia, Eastern European countries, Spain, Greece and elsewhere.

An additional threat will stem from opportunistic individuals, motivated by financial gain or personal grievances; disgruntled former employees, business associates, suppliers or malicious individuals may pose a security risk to business operations as well as unquantifiable reputational risks.

Recent incidents affecting business continuity, such as the persistent extortion of Dutch supermarket chain, Jumbo, highlight this threat as well as the challenges that successful resolution may pose to victim(s). Over a period of several months, anonymous individuals threatened to place explosive devices in Jumbo stores in various locations in the Netherlands; the perpetrators demanded that a ransom be paid in the anonymous digital currency, bitcoin.

The situation escalated between May and August, when explosives were in fact detonated in several Jumbo stores. As investigations continued, the company was forced to increase security at over 500 branches countrywide. 

Furthermore, political, hacktivist, anti-European Union, ultra-nationalist, anarchist, or extremist entities may choose to use extortion/cyber extortion to target individuals or businesses in relation to domestic, regional or international developments. High-profile cyber-attacks byunconfirmed state/non-state groups on various major European businesses and financial and political institutions during 2015 demonstrate that digital and cyber extortionists are capable of infiltrating a range of prominent targets.

A cyber-attack targeting the German Bundestag (Parliament) in May 2015 may require the institution to completely overhaul its IT system at the cost of several million euros. Additional high-profile attacks included the online infiltration of French broadcaster, TV5Monde, in April, during which several of the station’s channels and social media platforms were hijacked and negative material related to French military action in Iraq broadcast.

Turkey, September 2015:
The 13-year-old son of a prominent Syrian businessman was kidnapped in Istanbul for a ransom demand of US $1 million. He was freed by police forces in a security operation, which involved a fake ransom.

Latvia, September 2015:
Two foreign executives fell victim to an attempted kidnapping outside of their hotel in the capital, Riga. Seven suspects were arrested during a police sting operation while trying to transport the Irish and Swedish hostages to an undisclosed location.

France, May 2015:
A local millionaire was kidnapped from his residence in France and then transported to Marbella, Spain, where he was held hostage by a group of experienced kidnappers for two months. Following his abduction, he was forced to call his family and tell them he was taking an unexpected holiday; the gang then proceeded to extort him of approximately US $1.37 million. When they released him, they demanded he continue to pay an amount of US $106,000 per week.

Germany, August 2015:
The 17-year-old daughter of a Saxony businessman was kidnapped and subsequently killed by the perpetrators shortly after they made a ransom demand of US $1.27 million; this occurred despite her family stating publicly that they would make the payment. The perpetrators were inexperienced and after some ‘easy’ money; they chose their victim after coming across her Facebook profile and reading up on her family. One perpetrator reportedly conducted surveillance while walking a dog in the same area the victim walked her dog.

Russia, August 2015:
Police arrested six members of an extortion gang following the abduction of a prominent local businessman; the victim was seized from his vehicle and injected with a substance, which the kidnappers stated was lethal venom. He was told that an antidote would be given if he complied with the kidnappers’ financial demands - final ransom demand was US $106,000. The victim reportedly contacted his family and arranged the payment, after which he was given an undisclosed antidote.

Germany, June 2015:
The 50-year-old mentally disabled son of German billionaire, owner of the Wurth Group, was kidnapped from his care home near Frankfurt, and held hostage as the perpetrators demanded a ransom payment of approximately US $2.2 million. The victim’s father is reported to have a personal net worth of US $7.2 billion. After becoming aware of the massive police operation underway to rescue the victim, the perpetrators left the hostage tied to a tree in a forest near Wurzburg.

The Americas
In the Americas, slowing growth has served to place stress on populist governments that rely on heavy social spending policies. A change of leadership in Argentina has already occurred and further political upheaval is expected. Pressure from disaffected middle class populations and opposition groups has already increased in various key states, including Brazil, Venezuela and Ecuador. 

Associated civil unrest will remain a key concern and risk, which both business and general travelers will need to implement mitigation measures for in 2016. Latin America experienced a period of unprecedented economic growth from the early 2000s to 2013, which pulled tens of thousands of people out of poverty and into the middle class. This success depended largely on export goods that were in great demand by the rising Asian states. 

Recent decreases in demand have resulted in an increase in poverty rates and slowing growth in the region’s largest economies. This economic downturn coincided with and appears to be contributing to increasing anti-government sentiment by many in the lower classes, which are feeling the direct impact of the crisis, and among the fragile middle class, which is traditionally more likely to demand government accountability. In addition to disruptive and violent protests linked directly to the economy, long-standing grievances such as corruption, state mismanagement, environmental concerns, political reform and indigenous rights have surfaced in numerous areas organized criminal activity, particularly in Mexico and other Central American states, will remain at elevated levels throughout 2016. 

The connection between organized crime networks and political elites will continue to be exposed and, in some areas, these connections may break down in response to political reforms or changes in leadership. In some areas, the political/organized crime relationship may grow, including in El Salvador, where local gangs, estimated to have 70,000 members, increased activity in 2015 in response to a government crackdown. Overall, the economic downturn is likely to benefit criminal groups at the expense of state attempts to curtail criminal activity, including drug producing and smuggling.

Long established as the kidnapping center of the world, kidnap for ransom and extortion (KRE) will continue to pose one of the key security risks to individuals and companies operating in high-risk locations in South and Central America and the Caribbean in 2016.

Traditional and short-term kidnappings for financial gain will continue to affect locals and foreign nationals in Mexico Venezuela, as well as in Colombia, Argentina, Brazil, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Haiti and elsewhere in 2016, albeit at varying rates. In addition, threats posed by express and virtual kidnapping and cyber extortion are expected to increase. 

Actual and attempted extortion incidents, be it of local or foreign staff, may potentially hamper business operations and impact profit margins.

In one such example, a distribution center for Coca-Cola in Guerrero, Mexico, was closed in June 2015, reportedly because of ongoing extortion attempts by a criminal group. In addition to threats of violence, which will be used to coerce payments, past incidents in Mexico and Venezuela suggest that groups may physically attack critical infrastructure, including oil pipelines, manufacturing sites or transportation services, in order to solicit payments. An increase in extortion activity is highly likely in areas where foreign investment is expected to grow in 2016. 

Express kidnappings will occur regularly and hold the potential to evolve into a longer-term kidnap for ransom incident, depending on the circumstances, perpetrators and victims. The death of a Spanish tourist during a December 2014 urban express kidnapping in Maracaibo, Venezuela, as well as similar fatal outcomes in incidents elsewhere in the region, point to the potential for such an incident to rapidly deteriorate into violence. 

Furthermore, virtual kidnappings have grown in frequency and scope across Central and South America over the past year. Virtual kidnappings, which often emanate from incarcerated individuals, have increasingly included a cybercrime element; surveillance of potential victims is increasingly gathered using social networking platforms, or via stolen identity data. For example, in 2015, South America-based criminal entities orchestrated virtual kidnappings targeting victims in the US and Spain. A further uptick in incidents, both domestically and across geographical borders, is anticipated in 2016.

Traditional long-term kidnapping levels are expected to remain highest in Mexico and Venezuela. Kidnappings orchestrated by organized crime groups will continue to pose a security risk in countries such as Argentina and Brazil, and persistent lawlessness together with high crime and homicide rates in El Salvador, Haiti and Honduras will contribute to the ongoing elevated kidnapping risk in these countries. 

Finally, politically motivated and/or communal protest activity is a common occurrence in lower kidnapping-risk operating environments such as Bolivia, Ecuador, Peru, Chile and Paraguay. The possibility of recreational travelers being affected cannot be discounted; in 2015, approximately 40 tourists were detained overnight by protesting community members in Peru.

Middle East and North Africa
The Middle East and North Africa’s security and political troubles continue apace. The conflicts in Syria, Yemen and Libya, the persistent menace of the Islamic State and its various affiliate groupings, and rising tension between the region’s two powerhouses, Saudi Arabia and Iran, threaten to draw in major global powers in even greater ways in 2016 and heighten already elevated sectarian tensions. The prospect of an end to the region’s various conflicts remains remote, while the risk of interstate conflict continues to increase. 

The high-profile conflict in Syria continues to impact on the security environment and political stability of states across the region. Major regional and global powers are increasingly viewing Syria as a battleground to preserve or enhance influence through support of proxies, to support or topple the Bashar al-Assad regime, or to contain what is increasingly becoming a bloody and most likely drawn-out conflict lasting for many more years.

Western, Saudi Arabian, Turkish, Jordanian and Qatari support for anti-al-Assad forces, and Iranian, Russian, Chinese and Hezbollah support for the al-Assad regime is likely to escalate through 2016. The involvement of so many states and, by association, larger military alliances like NATO will serve to increase the risk of low-level interstate conflict.

In Yemen, Saudi Arabian support for the regime of President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi has been overt and significant. The fighting in Yemen, which is expected to persist through 2016, has left thousands dead and has further devastated the Yemeni state.

In restive Bahrain, Iran’s support for Shiite  protesters against the Sunni minority and Bahrain’s Saudi-backed regime will persist. Political support may increasingly be complemented by support with resources.
Since the establishment of a caliphate in June 2014, with Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as its caliph, IS has continued to make gains, albeit at a lower rate compared to its 2014 victories over the Iraqi military. In May 2015, the group captured Ramadi and, despite losing territory in Diyala governorate in Iraq and in northern Syria to the Kurds, it has managed to hold Raqqa, Mosul, Fallujah and parts of Ramadi.

In 2016, IS will seek to strengthen defenses in the Sunni heartland of the Anbar governorate and will continue to harry pro-Iraq forces elsewhere in the country. In Syria, IS will look towards the Aleppo governorate to make additional gains against the regime and rebel forces, while seeking further thrusts into central Syria.

Coinciding with the rapid rise of IS in Syria and Iraq has been the emergence of various IS affiliates or provinces across the region and the globe. Provinces have emerged in North Africa (Egypt, Libya and Tunisia), the Arabian Peninsula (Yemen and Saudi Arabia), Asia (Bangladesh and Afghanistan) and Africa (Somalia and Nigeria).

Many of these ‘new’ groups are simply rebranded former al-Qaeda-aligned groupings. These groups may pose a significant threat to foreign interests and local tourist industries.
In 2016, mass-casualty and high-profile attacks are likely to continue in Egypt, Libya, Algeria, Yemen and the Gulf States. IS has played a major part in driving sectarianism.

Since emerging as a major regional power in mid-2014, its propaganda machinery has presented Shiites, apostate states (those in coalition against it) and infidels (foreign powers) as the clear enemies. The group’s establishment of a caliphate and its remarkable battlefield successes have drawn thousands of fresh recruits to its banner from across the globe. Mixed communities, such as Tripoli in Libya, Beirut in Lebanon and the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia, which borders Bahrain, will increasingly become flashpoints of confrontation.

Kidnapping for the purposes of financial, political and ideological gains will be a key security risk in many countries within the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region in 2016. Pre-existing kidnapping risks from criminal, extremist and militia groups will remain elevated. 

Precedent has shown that, when compared to other regions, the potential for negative outcomes in kidnapping incidents in MENA is elevated. This has been clearly demonstrated by the abduction and subsequent execution of dozens of foreign nationals (including Chinese, Egyptian, Norwegian, UK and US citizens) by the Islamic State (IS) and affiliate groups. IS has made financial demands for the release of hostages in Syria in the past; in 2015, the group demanded a US $200 million ransom payment for a Chinese and Japanese hostage and a US $6.2 million ransom for a 26-year-old US national. 

The threat stems from individuals or groups affiliated with IS as well as unknown IS sympathizers. The kidnapping and execution of a French tourist in northeastern Algeria illustrate this threat. In addition, the possibility of opportunistic kidnapping and short-term hostage taking incidents occurring in countries with a medium or even low overall kidnapping threat may grow. The kidnapping and beheading of a Croatian national near Cairo, Egypt, by a previously unknown IS-affiliate group in 2015 illustrates this new threat posed by little-known militant groups keen to gain attention and support from IS. 

Ransom demands and settlements increased in countries such as Libya, Syria and Yemen, as unaffiliated groups have taken advantage of growing fears of a negative outcome fueled by IS execution of foreign hostages. This has been compounded by a number of instances where unsophisticated criminal groups are believed to have sold foreign hostages to IS after being unable to absorb delays in negotiations due to operational inexperience or inability to hold hostages for longer periods of time. This possibility adds a new dynamic to the regional kidnapping threat and is expected to continue in 2016. 

Africa’s complex political and security environment remains a point of concern for foreign business operators. The regionalization of the Boko Haram insurgency is a key focus area, while the mineral-rich Congo region continues to struggle with stabilizing increasingly restive polities. Within restive zones, kidnapping threats will remain elevated.

The year 2015 was one of milestones in Boko Haram’s near-decade-long armed insurrection against the Nigerian state. The year commenced ominously, with the sect inflicting its deadliest act of mass violence since its inception, when Boko Haram militants allegedly killed as many as 2,000 people in the northeastern village of Baga between 03 and 07 of January. The Baga massacre and the global outcry it evoked served as the catalysts for a regionally coordinated counteroffensive against the Islamist extremist group, launched in mid-January.

For the first time, the military forces of Nigeria, Cameroon, Niger and Chad conducted joint military operations against the sect, culminating in Boko Haram losing swathes of territory in northeastern Nigeria, which had been declared part of the group’s nascent caliphate in late 2014. However, the relative success of these joint military operations triggered another, albeit far less desirable, accomplishment in the Boko Haram insurgency. 

Although Boko Haram developed as a grassroots Nigerian organization with a domestic focus, the group’s rhetoric and ideology have always suggested a much wider ambition. Central to its recruitment strategy has been the sect’s manipulation of the historical narrative of the Kanem-Bornu Empire – an Islamic kingdom that once incorporated parts of modern Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad and Niger. For Boko Haram to achieve its purported goal of resurrecting this ancient Islamic empire, the sect would be required to export its armed insurrection beyond the confines of Nigeria’s borders.

By submitting to IS, Boko Haram has effectively pledged to pursue the IS agenda of creating a unified Islamic caliphate spanning all Muslimdominated regions of the world.

Although the terrorism threat in Lagos is assessed as most acute in its densely populated mainland region, the threat will extend to the Victoria and Lagos islands’ commercial districts, which host both foreign diplomatic and business interests.

In Chad, acts of terrorism are likely to continue in the capital, N’Djamena, which may also serve as the operational base for a regional force mandated to spearhead counterterrorism operations against Boko Haram in 2016.

In neighboring Niger, an expansion of Boko Haram activity to the respective south central and southwestern Zinder and Dosso regions, where a number of humanitarian organizations have based their operations, will be a credible concern in the coming year.

Sub-Saharan Africa

Kidnapping for the purposes of ransom, as well as short-term variants such as extortion and express kidnapping, will remain a primary security concern in many high-kidnap risk countries in Sub-Saharan Africa and may increase in frequency in some lowto medium-risk locations in 2016.

In particular, foreigners involved in the construction and/or engineering sectors have emerged as frequent targets, particularly in Nigeria; this trend is expected to continue in 2016. Furthermore, longer-term business travelers and expatriates will also face an elevated kidnapping threat.

Furthermore, the kidnapping of locals employed by foreign companies will remain a major concern in high-risk countries.

The presence and activities of well-organized criminal syndicates in relatively stable security environments within the SADC (Southern African Development Community) region, particularly in Kenya, Mozambique and South Africa, have the potential to continue to contribute to what may become an increasingly embedded kidnapping and extortion industry in 2016. Further sporadic kidnappings of locals and foreign nationals by extremist groups should be anticipated in 2016, as well as short-term hostage-takings such as the November assault on the Radisson Blu hotel in Mali’s capital, Bamako, which left approximately 19 people dead.

The abduction of a Romanian national from a poorly secured mining site in northern Burkina Faso by AQIM (Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb) splinter group, al-Mourabitoun, in August 2015 speaks directly to the threat of operating in insecure regions without adequate risk mitigation measures in place. 


The Asian region’s primary security issue in 2016 will remain the conflict in Afghanistan while the emergence of other IS-linked groupings in South Asia, South East Asia and Australia will gain popular attention and raise concerns among foreign and local security agencies. Afghanistan has served as a breeding ground for Islamist extremists and the threat of a greater spillover into neighboring states remains a persistent likelihood.

The connection between political and security threats and KRE (Kidnap, Ransom and Extorsion) risk levels remains strong, and in areas where the former risks are present, kidnapping threat levels and incident rates are generally elevated.

The types of KRE risks associated with travelling to or operating in each region are becoming increasingly diverse.

The increased conflict in Afghanistan is likely to negatively affect the security situation of its northern neighbors, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, albeit in an indirect manner. There are many citizens of Central Asian states fighting for militant groups abroad, including in the states listed above and Kyrgyzstan. Some estimates place the number of Central Asian fighters in Syria alone at between 1,000 and 1,500.

Australian security operations have also escalated in response to government concerns of radicalization among the population.

Following the December 2014 ‘Siege of Sydney’, a hostage crisis involving a single and apparently IS-motivated individual, and more recently, the October 2015 Parramatta isolated shooting incident, Australian intelligence services have escalated surveillance of those suspected of harboring extremist sympathies, and have carried out numerous raids and arrests. In Bangladesh, two separate killings of Italian and Japanese nationals were reported in September and October, respectively.

Kidnapping in its various forms will pose a credible security risk to local and foreign personnel as well as business interests in many parts of Asia in 2016. The threat of financially motivated kidnapping will remain significant in numerous locations in the region.

Although the kidnapping risk posed by regional and international Islamist extremist groups garnered widespread media attention in 2015, in terms of incident rates and frequency, the primary kidnap threat in the majority of countries in Asia continued to stem from criminal groups; a significant change in this dynamic is not anticipated in 2016.

The express-kidnapping risk will be most elevated for persons operating in larger cities in Bangladesh, China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Taiwan. With over 40,000 kidnapping cases reported per annum, the kidnapping rate in India is expected to remain one of the highest in the world during 2016.

Incidents of virtual kidnapping are also growing in frequency. In 2016, this risk is anticipated to be most prevalent in India, Taiwan, Hong Kong and China. In India and Bangladesh, tiger kidnapping1 gangs are expected to continue to target cash-rich organizations, such as banks and financial institutions, as well as jewelry and other high-end stores. 

Cyber extortion may present a significant security risk to individuals and businesses in 2016. Extortion will remain endemic in the insecure and conflict affected areas of Afghanistan, Pakistan and the Philippines, where rebel and militant groups and their criminal counterparts operate well-established extortion rackets that target various sectors. High-risk operating environments include Bangladesh, India and Papua New Guinea.

However, extortion will not remain limited to the above high-risk destinations. In 2015, incidents were frequently reported in China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Sri Lanka. 
Wrongful or illegal detention by state or non-state groups will pose a risk to individuals and companies in certain Asian countries in 2016.

China has emerged as a particular hotspot, where the wrongful detention of managerial staff by employees or business partners/suppliers is a common response to corporate disputes or misunderstandings. Furthermore, wrongful detention by official government entities will remain a concern for business and recreational travelers.

Travelers from Asia face a general higher risk of being kidnapped in many countries in the region due to their perceived wealth, history/culture of paying ransoms and the fact that they are less likely to attract the type of media attention associated with the kidnapping of Western nationals. Chinese, South Korean, Taiwanese and Malaysian nationals, in particular, are subject to an elevated kidnapping risk in several Asian states.

In the Philippines, specifically, the criminal kidnap threat will remain high in the restive southern areas, as well as in urban centers such as the capital, Manila. Urban centers in low- and medium-risk destinations such as Malaysia, Indonesia, China, Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan are not immune to the KRE threat. 

In particular, the abduction of company employees, termed ‘economic kidnapping’, is fast becoming a lucrative business; individuals in the retail and manufacturing industries are subject to the highest risk. In addition, the targeting of high-net worth individuals and their dependents by criminal entities was highlighted by several high-profile cases in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore in 2015.

In addition, while not comprising the primary threat, the risk of being kidnapped by Islamist extremist, politically motivated, rebel and separatist groups in certain locations in high- and extreme-risk destinations will remain elevated. 

By Iulia Simon, Senior VP Marketing, CH Toro International

1It's a kidnapping in which one or more hostages are taken to coerce another person, usually a relation of the person or people held, to take part in a crime (In Colins English Dictionary).

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