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Travel Alert: DFAT Warns Of Kidnapping Threat Worldwide.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade or DFAT had issued travel warnings on kidnapping threat worldwide, particularly in Afghanistan, Colombia, Iraq, eastern Malaysia (Sabah), southern Philippines, Somalia, Syria, Yemen, and parts of North and West Africa. Kidnapping is also high in Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, India, Kenya, Lebanon, Pakistan, Peru, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, South Sudan, Sudan, Tunisia and Turkey. The government had advised for Australians to reconsider their need to travel to these regions.

DFAT has identified four types of kidnapping operations namely kidnapping for ransom, for ideological reasons, with political motivation and demands, and kidnapping by pirates. Foreign travellers are the most common target of kidnapping. In some reported cases, kidnappers have already killed their victims when their demands were not given. Kidnapping cases that involve ideological or political motivations often leaves no chances for negotiation.

DFAT wants Australians to be aware that terrorists are posing as travel agencies to identify possible victims that they can kidnap. Kidnappers also frequent cultural festivals where foreigners are attracted; and ATMs where travellers are withdrawing money from. Such operations are common in African countries as well as Mexico and Colombia. Australians are also being highly warned against criminals posing as cab drivers. Some victims shared that they were held until they agree to withdraw money from their accounts.

Moreover, Australians are being cautioned against receiving online travel invitation to Africa, Nigeria, Uganda and South Africa. Such invitations are only made to lure victims into being kidnap and having to pay ransoms.

An ongoing kidnap trend dubbed as "virtual kidnapping" is rampant nowadays, DFAT warned. This scheme involves criminals posing as police officers. They call the travellers' friends or victims to demand for 'bail' to release the victim. As for the pirates kidnapping, travellers are being warned against commercial vessels, including luxury cruise liners travelling off the coast of Somalia, Yemen, Gulf of Guinea, Mindanao and in the Sulu Sea Philippines.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop reiterates that Australia does not practice paying ransom to kidnappers "so as not to increase the risk to other Australians of further kidnappings." She also warned that Australian Consular services may be limited in places identified having high kidnapping risk.

"I underline that, having made a decision to enter a high-risk zone, it is the responsibility of the individual and their employer to undertake their own security assessment and implement their own risk management plan. The Australian Government is not able to provide security protection," Bishop said.

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Publication:International Business Times - US ed.
Date:Oct 7, 2014
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