Friday, June 1, 2012

Nigeria: Kidnapped German Engineer Killed in Failed Rescue Operation

German engineer Edgar Fritz Raupach, who was kidnapped in northern Nigeria some five months ago, was shot and killed earlier today (May 31) in the city of Kano, during a failed rescue attempt by local police. Those who abducted the German expatriate stabbed and shot him before the extraction team neutralized several of the kidnappers.

COMMENT: Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) released a statement in March 2012 claiming that they had Raupach in custody. At the same time, they released a video whereby Raupach spoke in both German and English for German officials to take steps to free him. 

As part of AQIM's demands, the group also directed that the German government Filiz Gelowicz, a German national convicted last year of supporting a foreign terrorist network. Gelowicz's husband was among a group convicted of plotting unsuccessfully to attack US soldiers and citizens in Germany. 

In recent years, AQIM has amassed well over US$100 million as a result of its kidnapping of an estimated fifty Westerners. 

In March, two expatriates, one Italian and one British, were killed by kidnappers when UK and Nigerian security forces attempted to rescue them. The two men had been kidnapped in May 2011. This rescue operation was strongly criticized by the Italian government, largely because British and Nigerian security forces told the Italians about the operation only as it was occurring, which left the Italians livid and out of the loop.

Having worked a number of kidnap cases as a response coordinator, few rescue operations end well, particularly when the kidnappers are highly experienced, well-trained and committed to killing the hostages even at the risk of giving up their own lives, as is the case with AQIM.

Although there is always considerable pressure from family and the media to rescue long-term kidnap victims, governments whose nationals have been kidnapped should never permit emotions to force them into a rescue operation. 

We must keep in mind that while some al-Qaeda-linked kidnappers have killed their hostages, where ransom money is the primary motive, it is rare. 

It is clear that ALL hostage experiences rigorously test the emotional and physical limits of victims, yet the hardships may be far more tolerable than death. Consequently, rescue operations should NEVER be attempted unless their success can be confidently assured.

As I have said in a number of postings, PREVENTING a kidnapping is much more manageable than reckoning with a kidnapping itself. Hence, threat analysis and operationally ensuring that a kidnapping does not occur, is where resources need to be expended. 

Finally, when the probability of a kidnapping occurring is very foreseeable, in the absence of adequate protection, one option is not to expose oneself to the risk, and consider other employment opportunities.