Criminal groups around the world frequently rely on kidnapping for ransom (K&R) to fund and further their cause. Some case studies suggest war torn, fragile, and corrupt countries experience K&R epidemics more often. While such factors may be present in some countries experiencing K&R epidemics, it remains to be seen if these failed state factors are generalizable to all nations. To date, no research has systematically examined the conditions which might facilitate K&R epidemics. This study used a case-control design comparing countries with high rates of K&R (experimental) to countries without a K&R problem (control). Findings suggest that problem K&R countries were less secure, less peaceful, and unevenly developed in relation to social and economic indicators. Better understanding of the conditions involving K&R problems offers to improve foresight.

There are millions of kidnappings ever year. However, not all kidnappings fit the same mold. Most are designed to gratify the ‘abductor’, ‘kidnapper’, ‘actor’ or ‘trafficker’. Regardless of the intent stated by the kidnapper if one is given, the commonality shares the same end goal; MONEY. Mostly every country has this problem but now it is at its height especially in the wake of International Terrorism sky rocketing. I will examine what countries are most effected which can be subjective to any reader.   

A sixth country where people are practically stolen from the streets and disappeared only to re-surface after a ransom is paid with the option to be forever gone with the wind! Who still wants to take a chance at being held for ransom and sometimes killed for failure to deliver the king’s ransom? The tourist? The investor? The expatriate? The educator? The Foundations staffer? This author? You? The list of people staying off is growing and who suffers most but the economy of Nigeria, which is bleeding off all these potential additional tourism revenues due to instability occasioned by fear of kidnappers and other sundry anarchists parading in the country.

There is a kidnapping menace in Enugu State, urging a precise determinate action against such terrorists (kidnap and death of a high chief); and will like to urge the Federal government of Nigeria to make the crime of kidnapping a death-penalty offense. Kidnapping or fear of it paints Nigeria in a very bad light and sabotages its economy which would otherwise benefit from extra foreign exchange receipts from visitors, tourists and investors wishing to come to Nigeria. With the price of oil, the main stay of Nigeria’s economy, tanking, the government need to start taking in revenue from other sources including tourism and the kidnappers should not be allowed to stand in the way. No price is too much to pay to put a stop to this nightmare and key leaders pledge to support whatever action aimed at stamping out this scourge. The government of Nigeria should therefore treat these miscreants as economic saboteurs and mete out a dissuading justice to them accordingly. On the hierarchy of crimes, kidnapping should rank amongst treason as it attacks the very essence of Nigeria sustenance and by extension, its existence!

The hope for assistance is in Nigeria’s support of the new United States administration. Although the balance of power in Nigeria is unstable as President Muhammadu Buhari is in exile in the UK for supposed medical reasons indefinitely.

Now ranked among such countries like Haiti, Iraq, Afghanistan, Chechnya, Philippines, Colombia, Brazil, Venezuela and Mexico, Nigeria really need to press the accelerator to zoom out of this crowd fast. All the negative raps already heaped on Nigeria appear to be bad enough, but add kidnapping to it and Nigeria becomes a completely no-go area. Admitted that criminals masquerading as “businessmen” will always brave any condition whatsoever to see if they can ink one more contract or catch a deal anywhere, even in Hell, but the real issue should be the standing of Nigeria in the eyes of the world, especially the tourists. Being tagged a kidnapping mecca of the world is a toga the Nigerian Foreign and Internal Affairs ministries should devote a greater percentage of their resources both in manpower, propaganda and money to wage a ruthless campaign against. They need to cleanse this insignia from Nigeria as the damage is unquantifiable both in revenue and reputation. Whatever it takes, let it be done including breaking some hands and legs if need be. Reputation is priceless and any nation without one is doomed!

Now take a little peek on how these top ten kidnapping-countries are viewed in the eyes of the world, in descending order: –

10. Haiti – It remains an unsafe place to visit, even considering the presence of the UN stabilization force. Kidnappers and street gangs are thriving in Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince. The targets include rich Haitians, diplomats, aid workers and, of course, foreign tourists.

9. Iraq – It doesn’t come as a surprise, considering the widespread civil violence, that Iraq isn’t one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations. Violence and kidnappings occur on a regular basis and are mainly aimed at foreigners. Once the home to the most ANCIENT civilizations, Iraq is now a place where several distinct forces are competing for control.

8. Afghanistan – Afghanistan has been experiencing a lot of turmoil in the wars that have been raging on for over 25 years. Presently, several areas of the country remain unsafe for travelers, attacks targeting foreigners are ever frequent, especially suicide bombings concentrated around foreign embassies. Visitors are recommended to avoid gatherings, avoid travelling alone or at night. Afghanistan presently has one of the most volatile situations.

7. Chechnya – Ever since the Russian empire collapsed in 1991, southern Russian has been marked by the conflict between the Chechen separatists and the Russian forces, thus reducing almost most of all the province to sad ruins of a long war. Rich in petro-chemicals, natural gas and oil, the country’s economy and infrastructure have been experiencing a serious crash, due to the on-going conflicts. Tourists are not safe in the country.

6. Nigeria – Africa’s most populous nation has a fascinating mixture of over 200 ethnic groups that, coupled with an unstable economy, often leads to a volatile situation. Per news reports, over 200 foreign oil workers have been kidnapped in the Niger Delta, most situations being resolved with a ransom. It is not a paradise for tourists as they are easy targets of kidnappers.

5. Philippines – The archipelago consisting of 7,107 islands is a fascinating, laid back natural paradise, with friendly, engaging people. But there’s a reason we included Philippines among the countries where tourists are most likely to get kidnapped. North Cotabato, Mindanao, Zamboanga peninsula, Basilan, Tawi-Tawi and the Sulu archipelago are just a few areas that a traveler should necessarily avoid. Apart from the usual robberies and kidnappings, foreigners also risk having a drug put in their drink that knocks one out immediately. Tourists are then either robbed, molested or have their kidneys taken. 10 hours are needed to wake up from the drug and another three days to remember what happened.

4.Venezuela – With some of the most spectacular landscapes and the longest waterfall in the world, Venezuela truly is a sight not to be missed, if you’re willing to leave aside street crime, kidnappings or political turmoil. If not, know that street crime is present daily throughout the country. Tourists in Venezuela are the easiest target for pickpockets; so, try to look like anything but a tourist. Don’t wear jewelry, watches, avoid unfolding maps, taking pictures and stay away from poor areas.

3. Colombia – National parks, high mountains, cruise boats or soaring skyscrapers are just a few of the numerous attractions Colombia must offer. Even though it might sound like an untroubled paradise, Colombia has its fair share of drug dealers, robberies and kidnappings. Even though safety has improved in recent years, Colombia still suffers from high kidnapping and homicide rates in urban areas. The extra violence is provoked by the guerrillas which operate mainly in rural areas – tourists are warned to be avoid the border areas with Ecuador and Venezuela.

2. Brazil – The largest country in South America, teeming with beaches and untamed forests, Brazil is one of the most vibrant and colorful places on the continent. As with the other countries on the list, the downside is the street crime present in big cities, where attacks against tourists have become frequent. Apart from the usual kidnappings, there are also a high number of muggings; so simply leave your valuables at the HOTEL AND take with you only a small amount of money. To top it all off, Brazil experienced an increase in the number of yellow fever and dengue fever cases, so be sure to have your shots before entering the country.

1. Mexico – Mexico is one of the most dangerous countries in the world. You’ll come across plenty of corruption and the usual street crime that comes with every big city. Kidnapping for ransom is common, especially in border cities such as Tijuana, Nogales or Juarez. As with other cities on the list, try not to look like a tourist, avoid flashing shiny, expensive objects and you should be fine. This isn’t simply a list of places with the highest kidnapping rates. That directory would include no-brainers like Syria which has been fighting a bloody civil war for three years which has become a haven for jihadists. We’re assuming you don’t need someone to tell you that those places are somewhat perilous for travelers.

Our list focuses, instead, on countries that are first and foremost popular travel destinations—and that also happen to have a high rate of abductions. There are some surprises on the list: India, for example, might seem out of place among the world’s kidnapping capitals, but the numbers don’t lie.

It’s not easy to wrangle data on kidnappings. For one, both governments and kidnapping victims are known to underreport abductions. Also, there are several different varieties of kidnapping, and not all countries classify each kind as a “kidnapping.” For example, in parts of Asia and Latin America, so-called virtual kidnappings are common—that’s where the bad guys claim falsely that they have abducted someone and demand a ransom. In some countries, these go in the books as “fraud” not “kidnapping.” Another example: “Express kidnappings,” where hostages are taken for a day or two at most, just long enough to deplete their bank accounts or max out their CREDIT CARDS, are sometimes are logged as “robberies.”

In pulling together this list, we’ve adjusted for these various quirks and discrepancies to focus on the types of abductions that most often affect tourists and travelers. (See note to the right for MORE detail on how we came up with the numbers.) The countries below are ordered from most kidnapping incidents to least.

Kidnap rate: Kidnapping isn’t a new threat in Mexico, but it is now endemic. In the last decade, kidnappings have grown 245 percent (and that’s just reported incidents). Last year, almost 1,583 kidnapping cases were reported to Mexican authorities—the highest number since Mexico began tracking kidnapping stats in 1997.

How the kidnaps typically play out: “Express” and “virtual” varieties that target both locals and foreigners. Last year’s virtual kidnaps included a Spanish indie rock band visiting Mexico City to perform in a music festival and a U.S. citizen participating in an IRONMAN competition in Cozumel. The kidnappers demanded $380,000 for the band. Both incidents were relatively mild. The country’s kidnappers have a reputation for being particularly violent: 935 victims were killed between 1994 and 2008.

What’s fueling the kidnapping: The government clampdown on Mexico’s drug trade has played a role, heightening competition among traffickers and, in some cases, forcing the traffickers to look for other sources of revenue.

The bottom line: The droves of spring-breakers and tequila-drinkers that descend on the country each year are safest holed up in their private resorts, as Mexico has the highest number of kidnappings in the world.

Kidnap rate: Kidnapping and abduction rates have grown faster than any other crime over the past 60 years in India.

How the kidnappings typically play out: Several highly-publicized abductions and rape incidents involving tourists last year made headlines. One involved a 30-year-old American tourist who was offered a ride back to her hotel by three men. Instead, the men took her to a secluded spot and raped her.

What’s fueling the kidnapping: Poverty appears to be the single biggest driver. The country’s poorer states, like Bihar, regularly account for a large share of kidnaps. Several larger criminal organizations and rebel groups also use abductions to augment their revenue streams.

The bottom line: While visitors to India’s postcard-worthy wonders like the Taj Mahal and Fatehpur Sikri can be reasonably confident of their safety, both UNESCO heritage sites are in Uttar Pradesh, one of the Indian states with the highest number of abductions.

Kidnap rate: There were MORE than 1,000 kidnap-for-ransom incidents last year.

How the kidnappings typically play out: Caracas, the capital, has one of the highest homicide rates in the world. One of the more recent and harrowing kidnapping incidents took place in July 2012. A Portuguese man was taken from a highway service station and held captive in an underground bunker beneath a rural residence in Carabobo state for nearly a year. He was rescued in June 2013 (the perpetrators did not receive the $6.5 million ransom they had demanded).

What’s fueling the kidnapping: Lack of economic opportunities, especially in Caracas, create an environment conducive to kidnappings and lots of gang activity also. In some of the city’s poorest areas, police are unable to maintain order, and criminals have license to do as they please.

The bottom line: Caracas is the country’s hotbed of kidnapping activity, and there are fewer risks for foreigners traveling outside the capital. But the key takeaway is this: Travel to Venezuela is not for the risk-averse, as it remains one of the most kidnapping-prone places in the world.

Kidnap rate: Some estimates suggest kidnapping rates rose as much as 94 percent in 2013. Our analysis showed at least 39 kidnappings last year, though given the current porous, shifting nature of the Syrian border, that number is almost certainly much higher.

How the kidnappings typically play out: While most abductees seem to be locals, aid workers, journalists and foreign tourists have been hit, too. Seven Estonian cyclists were abducted in March 2011 in an attack that Lebanese officials described as planned and coordinated. The cyclists were freed four months later. The Estonians later described their abductors as eight Islamic extremists armed with Kalashnikovs who had pressured them to convert to Islam.

What’s fueling the kidnapping: Lebanon spent much of the ’70s and ’80s beset by a brutal civil war, and tit-for-tat kidnappings were a near-daily occurrence. The end of hostilities in the ’90s ushered in a period of relative stability, and tourism flourished. But the civil war in neighboring Syria has plunged Lebanon back into chaos.

The bottom line: If Syria remains mired in conflict, kidnappings in Lebanon are unlikely to subside. For the moment, Westerners have remained largely outside the crosshairs of kidnappers. But, as one journalist warned back in September, Americans and Europeans could easily become the next victims, especially if local groups take issue with their countries’ foreign policies.

Kidnap rate: Kidnappings in the Philippines nearly doubled in 2013—and there were MORE than 20 kidnap-for-ransom cases alone, based on media reports and government figures.

How the kidnaps typically play out: PIRATES trolling the Sulu Sea, which separates the Philippines islands from Malaysia’s Sabah region, have been the scene of numerous abductions over the last decade. Just last November, armed gunman took a Taiwanese tourist from an island just off Sabah after killing her husband. The tourist was rescued a month later. Officials have not said if a ransom was paid.

What’s fueling the kidnapping: Criminals and separatist groups that operate in the region treat foreigners, particularly wealthy visitors from China, as human ATMs. Abu Sayyaf, a prominent militant Islamist group with links to Al Qaeda, has been responsible for numerous tourist abductions over the past few years. Some figures suggest the group has collected over $35 million in ransom fees.

The bottom line: Unfortunately, the coastal and island resorts in the southern Philippines that are particularly popular among vacationers are also frequented by kidnappers and PIRATES. The good news? The clear majority of abductees have been released unharmed. (Of course, that’s assuming you can foot the bill.)

Kidnap rate: The kidnap threat in Colombia has improved significantly in the last 10 years, thanks to peace talks between the government and the rebels, the Revolutionary ARMED FORCES of Colombia (FARC), with just 219 incidents reported last year, per Colombia’s Defense Ministry.

How the kidnaps typically play out: Most kidnappings in tourist areas are “express,” usually lasting less than 48 hours. During these “quicknappings,” armed gangs force their victims to withdraw funds from one or more ATMs, sometimes using other proxies, such as cab DRIVERS, to facilitate the kidnap.

What’s fueling the kidnaps: Economics. FARC, which has a history of kidnappings to raise money, last year called a stop to that practice as part of the peace process. It’s not uncommon for criminals to claim kidnappings or other actions in the FARC’s name.

The bottom line: While Colombia is no longer teeming with criminal gangs and narco-traffickers the way it was five years ago, it is still a volatile place. Risks remain for foreigners, MORE so for employees of international oil and mining companies than sightseers and vacation travelers.

Kidnap rate: Brazil officially recorded 319 kidnapping cases in 2011. But because express kidnaps—the most common type of extortion scheme in Brazil—are not included in official kidnapping stats, our analysis suggests that well over 6,000 kidnappings take place each year.

How the kidnaps typically play out: Last year, an American tourist was kidnapped, raped and robbed after the minibus she was traveling on was hijacked by three men outside of Rio. The woman was traveling with her French boyfriend, who was also abducted, beaten and bound, and forced to watch the ordeal. The three men left with the passengers’ CREDIT CARDS, which were reportedly used in multiple locations over the next few hours.

What’s fueling the kidnaps: Kidnappings in Brazil are fueled partly by organized crime, though many of the gangs are largely made up of untrained thugs looking for a quick financial gain. Thus, victims are often selected from Brazil’s lower classes because they can be targeted with little preparation.

The bottom line: Improvements in security in preparation for the World Cup in 2014 and Summer Olympics in 2016 should SLOW abduction rates in Brazil, which is far safer than most of its neighbors when it comes to kidnapping risk.

Kidnap rate: In 2013, there were about 74 kidnapping-for-ransom incidents in Kenya.

How the kidnaps typically play out: A British woman was kidnapped and her husband murdered in 2011 at a coastal resort near the Kenya-Somali border. Six months later, a French national was snatched from a private home in another heavily trafficked tourist hotspot nearby. She died in captivity in Somalia.

What’s fueling the kidnaps: Drastic socio-economic conditions and general lawlessness in Somalia are boosting kidnappings in Kenya, predominately along their shared border. These conditions serve as a breeding ground for extremists, like Al Shabaab, as well as run-of-the-mill criminals.

The bottom line: While Kenya’s wildlife safaris are a powerful draw for travelers, the BEACHES AND RESORTS on the country’s north coast play an increasingly vital role in attracting tourists, but that’s also where the kidnapping risk is greatest. Travelers to other parts of Kenya should take precautions, too, given the recent growth of certain terrorist groups in the region. In September, Al Shabaab stormed a shopping mall in Nairobi. Though unconfirmed, Al Shabaab is thought to be behind some of the more recent kidnappings, too.       

Child Recovery International is the leading Investigative & Intelligence Agency in the location and recovery of vanished persons, notably lost, stolen or missing children (and adults). We are criminal profilers and criminal science behavioral analysts.

We are actively involved in fight against Human/Sex Trafficking and kidnapping, playing an integral role is engaging into the culture of the criminal mindset, dissecting the psychology of each predator, tracking the movements of the ‘actor’, ‘groomer’, ‘trafficker’ and locating the asset.

Our success rate in unsolved police cases/cold cases is unprecedented. Our methodologies are unique, proprietary and perceptive.

Our analytic abilities allow us to track violent offenders, apprehend them and bring them to justice. To date, we have arrested over 6,000 wanted men and woman including terrorists, kidnappers, members of the drug cartels and human smugglers.   

About the author: #Scott Bernstein is the CEO of Global Security International LLC and Child Recovery International headquartered in NYC. He has extensive experience as a Counter Terrorist Specialist, International Apprehension Operative, Human & Sex Trafficking Expert and a Military and Law Enforcement Trainer. He is available as a Consultant, Expert Witness and as a Speaker. In addition to his LinkedIn profile, you can also interact with Scott on his LinkedIn group

If you are looking for a professional Kidnap/Rescue agency, please contact Child Recovery International through their web site at

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