The phrase ‘We do not negotiate with terrorists’ is one that is echoed by many governments around the world regularly. A phrase that has become procedure with some administrations as well as being a policy some governments pride themselves on, however, Rukmini Callimachis of the New York Times yesterday published in The Sacramento Bee that some governments appear to be doing the complete opposite.
Mr Callimachis in his controversial report states ‘Not only are some European governments negotiating with terrorists, they are paying ransoms to free their kidnapped citizens.’
Mr Callimachis’ report details how al-Qaida has turned hostage taking into a global business – some reported by Mr Callimachis as being financed by the French, German, Spanish and Swiss governments.
In the report released yesterday it is suggested that since 2008, al-Qaida have reaped at least $125 million from kidnappings, with more than half of the amount being paid in the past 12 months and the ‘going rate’ for each hostage has increased considerably, according to Mr Callimachis’ report.
Monies received by terrorist groups are reported to have been used as payments as ‘seed money to recruit and train fighters who have launched deadly attacks.’
The New York Times’ investigation explains ‘officially governments deny paying the ransoms.’ Mr Callimachis’ investigation found that whilst governments denying any ransoms are paid to terrorist groups, they have been found to be ‘funnelling the money through proxies as well as sometimes disguising it as humanitarian or development aid.’
Mr Callimachis says that his story is true and the payments have come to fruition ‘through numerous interviews in 10 countries and in thousands of internal al-Qaida documents found by a journalist in Mali in 2013.’
Some governments are trying to prevent kidnappings from hostile countries by advising their citizens not to travel, countries that include Iraq or Syria for example where they may travel and fight for militant groups then return to their homeland battle-hardened with even more extreme views as well as running the risk of being kidnapped by terrorists.
Paying off terrorist groups is problematic to say the least and whilst the payments may prevent executions, the very same payments to terrorist groups may encourage more further hostage taking.
Al-Qaida are responsible for 53 hostages in the past five years, Mr Callimachis’ report details that all come from countries that pay ransom, three were Americans.
In May 2014 the USA Obama administration negotiated the release of five Taliban militants in exchange for US Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl who had been held captive in Afghanistan for five years. Whilst cash may not have been paid, negations with terrorists against the government’s procedure took place.
The UK and USA remain among the few nations who refuse to pay ‘cash ransoms,’ doing so sometimes results at a human cost to those being held hostage, save for the lucky that may escape or be rescued through respective special forces operations.
Mr Callimachis’ report concludes with the explanation that ‘the cost European countries that have, unwittingly or not, helped to fiancé al-Qaida groups. Giving terrorist groups the resources to expand only makes them a bigger threat and how would those governments explain to its people that its euros paid for the deadly bomb that just exploded?’
Paying a ransom to free kidnapped citizens or releasing already captured terrorists in exchange for kidnapped citizens are both clear ‘negotiating with terrorist’ tactics and both ‘tools’ to terrorist groups and to the ongoing fight against global terrorism, despite how it is reflected through governments not just in Europe but globally.