Tracking ID UA-126977798-1
What is your price? What do you think you are worth? What would you pay to retrieve your child who has been kidnapped? Hopefully you have never been in a position to have to bargain for human lives, but at this very moment there are thousands of hostages held by terrorist and criminal gangs in dangerous and degrading conditions in Central and South America, Central Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Eastern Europe. They are stuck in the middle while their families, employers, governments or specialist hostage negotiators haggle over their lives and 'value'. The longer negotiations continue the less likelihood there is of release and/or exchange, and the greater the chances of deliberate or even accidental death.
Hostages can only pray their skills, nationality, visibility, network of influence and family wealth will make them more valuable alive than dead. The timing, changing political landscapes and media focus all contribute to their chances of returning home. This week I write about three hostages. All were working in the humanitarian sectors of health and education in war zones. None were in the military. One from America, one from Australia and one from New Zealand. All countries which at some point in my life and my family life, we have called home.
The photos below are of two men kidnapped in Kabul and held prisoner by criminal/terrorist networks since August 7, 2016. They were on their way home from teaching at the American University of Afghanistan (AUAF). The younger man, Tim Weeks from Australia, had only just arrived two weeks before. The driver of the AUAF van got away. It was a policy of AUAF not to allow weapons or guards in transport. It was a dangerous drive from the apartment/villas provided to faculty down Darul Amman road to the university. A number of assassinations, roadside bombings, drive by bombings and shootings happened on that road.
The vans AUAF faculty were required to ride in were "thin skins" with no extra protection. I know because I used to be part of that faculty, I lived in the same lodgings and rode the same routes, and I knew the American hostage, Kevin King. The dramatic change in both men while in captivity is painful to see from the photos. Evidently they are/were imprisoned in dreadful conditions for at least the first two years. There are no public photos or videos of them since 2018. Since the first week of their abduction, reports circulated of both men being held by the notorious Haqqani network. The Haqqani network/criminal and terrorist organization extends into Pakistan. Pakistan media confirms the initial reports as stated below.
"The professors are believed to be under the captive authority of the Haqqani network, which works closely with the Taliban as a kidnapping moneymaking enterprise. Haqqani also held US soldier Bowe Bergdahl and the recently released hiker Caitlan Coleman and her family — who were located in Pakistan following a grueling five-year captivity. A senior Afghan intel source, connected to the National Directorate of Security (NDS), also affirmed that the professors were kidnapped by Haqqani militants with the help of “internal circles,” which function like criminal gangs in Kabul. They were held initially in the Arzo district of Logar province in the Speen Jomat area, just a few miles from the tribal area of Pakistan known as Parachinar, but were shifted deeper inside the Kurram district inside the bordering tribal areas. The NDS source also claimed that the Haqqani network continues to demand the release of one of their top commanders, Anas Haqqani, who was captured in 2014, and sentenced to death by Afghan officials. There are some Afghan officials pushing for this maneuver under the belief it may make foreign visitors safer. However, a well-placed US official told US Fox News that they are absolutely standing by their no-concession policy, and that there will be no such trades made." www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2017/11/07/haqqanis-holding-abducted-professors-pakistan-can-play-role-says-afghan-official/
Terrorists then launched a full scale attack on AUAF two weeks later, August 24, 2016. 14 people were killed including students, police guards and professors,45 people were wounded. No group officially claimed responsibility but students and American professors heard the terrorists while they hid for over ten hours during the attack. An eyewitness account by one of my former AUAF colleagues, an American survivor Dr. Raj Chandarlapaty, can be seen/heard in this interview: www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=316&v=41Lc9DFiAAQ
The official position of all three nations-the USA, Australia and New Zealand, is that "no ransom will be paid, no prisoner exchanges made with criminal and/or terrorist groups". However with the speed of social media and global reach over the last decade, it is well known - and in some cases officially celebrated as with the "exchange/return" made for Army deserter Bowe Berghdahl by former President Obama-that all three countries, at some time in the past have paid money or exchanged high value prisoners for their citizens. All three countries have violated their own "no concession" policy. Moreover, if kidnappers and their associates and supporters are not caught and punished nor publicly identified-they will continue to use these crimes as leverage any chance they can. Criminals and terrorists have no incentive to keep their promises. They do not follow 'rules of law' or 'rules of engagement' ROE. They will never "play nice and work well with others".
Unfortunately for New Zealand nurse/mid wife Lisa Akavi, New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern hasn't learned those lessons yet. There are many in the international humanitarian aid community, including the International Red Cross/Red Crescent, Lisa Akavi's employer, who believe that the enforced "secrecy" demanded by Prime Minister Ardern at a time when spotlighting Lisa and her plight would have been most beneficial, was a serious miscalculation in her hostage negotiation "policy". New Zealand had already planned using their special operations forces in Syria when intel pointed to a specific housing group where Lisa Akavi was sighted/reported to be working as a nurse in Daesh/ISIS compounds.
In April 2019, New Zealand finally revealed that there had been communications and the New Zealand military had responded with a unit to search in Syria for Lisa Akavi. “This has involved members of the NZDF (New Zealand defense force) drawn from the Special Operations Force, and personnel have visited Syria from time to time as required,” Winston Peters said. This non-combat team was specifically focused on locating Louisa and identifying opportunities to recover her." www.breitbart.com/middle-east/2019/04/15/new-zealand-special-forces-in-syria-search-for-nurse-held-by-islamic-state/ To date (August 20,2019) Lisa Akvai has not been found, rescued or exchanged and returned.
It is naive to think those who would even contemplate kidnapping and trading hostages for money/assets/leverage would not know how much they could demand from a government or family. There are online reports from countries who have had their citizens taken hostage and what they "paid" for their return. This includes France, Japan, Korea, Italy and Australia. Here is one article by correspondent and writer, James Dickey, himself party to hostage negotiations at various times in his life: www.thedailybeast.com/isiss-new-hostage-threat?ref=scroll
The dark net is where more specifics can be researched, depending on the nationality. You can probably guess which nationality is the "highest value" hostage, no matter what their profession. As long as one family, government, employer has paid-and numerous have over the years-the 'official policies' against negotiation are ineffectual and have certainly not proved to be a deterrent.
Remember, too-that children are kidnapped, held hostage, tortured, sexually abused, beaten, forced to do crimes, perversions and even murder-then they are often filmed and killed especially by Daesh/ISIS and criminal gangs. Below is just one photo of Kurdish children in Kobani who were finally rescued in Syria. There are thousands of other children still held hostage. Photo is courtesy of Human Rights Watch.
Finally, these three human beings Lisa Akavi, Kevin King and Timothy Weeks need any/all help and support you can muster. If you have any credible information about their whereabouts and if you can continue to make their plight known on platforms on the net-please do and keep them in your prayers. All these efforts can assist. These three ventured to do "good works" in the world, and provide benefit not harm. Hopefully they will be able to return to their homes....alive...soon.
Sending this song out to those courageous human beings who are heroic in enduring imprisonment, privations and worse. This song is especially for young innocents and for those who worked for others benefit, in foreign lands.
The song I include is sung by Mariah Carey who has a three octave reach and mastery of her voice for "Hero" www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=48&v=0IA3ZvCkRkQ Yes, we can also be "heroes" if only just for one day.
Until next week...carry on,