As a followup to my report on the kidnapping of Warren Weinstein yesterday, the aid worker was abducted from his home in the upscale neighborhood of Model Town, sadly, just two days before he was due to return to the United States after five years in Pakistan.
COMMENT: Although police in Lahore are confident that Weinstein's kidnappers selected him as a target because he was a U.S. citizen, as we go to press, no group or individual has as yet claimed responsibility for the American's abduction.
Whenever a kidnapping occurs, my first thought is always to assess the security awareness of the victim. In other words, were they vigilant as to the probabilities of being kidnapped, did they even recognize it as a possibility, were they cautious and unpredictable and did they frequently change the times of scheduled events in their lives?
Interestingly, most kidnappings occur in and around vehicles, when the target is traveling between home and office or at a "choke-point" (a place they can be expected to be at a particular time). Very often there is also often less protection on soft targets when they are in-transit because rarely do they have security escorts, whereas at both office and home that should be expected.
Weinstein's kidnapping does bring to mind the assassination of USAID executive officer Larry Foley, who was assassinated outside of his home in Jordan in 2002. I should add that he was shot and killed by al-Qaeda operatives at a time when there was an active threat against the US Embassy. See the similarity to Weinstein's kidnapping, with political tensions being recently heightened?
One issue I've always noticed with concern in Pakistan is that rarely do aid workers and short-term and long-term technical experts use ballistic-resistant vehicles. Although the kidnappings of foreigners, particularly from vehicles, is not very common, it only has to happen ONCE for someone to have a really bad day.
Police described the abductors as Urdu-speakers who wore Western-style shirts and trousers. Considering that the kidnapping took place at 0330 in the morning, it is not surprisingly that there were few witnesses, other than the guards who were tied up, blindfolded and had tape placed over their mouths.
Needless to say, the police have their work cut out for them. No one seems to know anything about the vehicle that was used to take Weinstein from the residence. There are also a large number of Pakistani staff that worked for him over the years, so there may be perhaps as many as 100 individuals who will have to be identified and interviewed.
Understandably, the US Embassy in Islamabad and the and Consulate in Lahore are attempting to work closely together with the Pakistani government on the Weinstein kidnapping, albeit difficult, given the tensions between the two governments following CIA contractor Ray Davis' killing of two armed Pakistantis in Lahore in January. Although jailed for a number of weeks, Davis was finally released and permitted to leave Pakistan in March after the US Government paid US$2.4 million to the families of the two men that Davis shot and killed. Of course, then came the SEAL raid on Osama bin Laden's compound on May 2 that nicely took the terrorist leader out of the equation.
On February 2, 2009, John Solecki an American UN official was kidnapped by a nationalist group known as the BLUF (Baluchistan Liberation United Front) in Baluchistan, and held for two months before being released. His kidnappers demanded the release of more than 100 militants arrested during a military campaign. It is not known whether any of these militants were actually released; however, it is unlikely that Solecki won his freedom without a major concession of some sort.
My advice to all Americans working and living in Pakistan is to IMMEDIATELY and DELIBERATELY review and assess the security vulnerabilities they face day-to-day and REDUCE them as quickly as possible. This should include a review of the physical security of their residence, enhancing their level of security in moving about the country, modifying routines in their schedules and putting contingency plans in place.
Other strategies that can also disrupt the success of terrorist groups is to change residences from time to time, use different vehicles and modify schedules at the last minute, realizing that anyone wanting to kidnap someone MUST conduct pre-incident surveillance of the target's movements. ELL