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Table of Contents

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Lesson 3-1 The Hostage

Hostage-taking is a way for terrorists to achieve a bargaining position by forcing a confrontation with authorities. It will remain an effective terrorist tool as long as mankind values human life. Hopefully, you will never become a hostage, but if you do, knowing how to react will improve your chances of survival. Your role as a hostage is to survive with honor—not to kill the terrorists or get you or your fellow hostages killed. Remember, most hostages survive a hostage-taking. Terrorists select hostages for a variety of reasons. The hostage may have a prominent job or social status or may be—

e Well known, so that terrorists receive widespread media attention.

e An American.

e Hated by the terrorists, or the terrorists may blame the hostage for any setbacks they have suffered from their own government’s forces. For example, U.S. military advisors in El Salvador were despised by terrorists of the FMLN because of the assistance the advisors provided the El Salvadorian government.

e Valuable to employers and families; for example, families and civilian firms have paid ransoms to secure a hostage’s release.

e Seen as a threat to the terrorists. For example, in Colombia, the terrorist groups M-19 and Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), who make more than $100 million each year from cocaine sales, target special agents of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

These reasons identify why a particular person may be targeted for a hostage-taking. But, in most cases, a hostage is an innocent victim of circumstances—someone who was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Therefore, you must prepare yourself to respond (both mentally and physically) to a hostage-taking incident.

Terrorist Suicide Missions

If under the control of terrorists, you must rapidly determine the terrorists’ intent: to establish a bargaining position and elicit publicity or to carry out a suicide mission. The passengers on board the planes used in the 11 September 2001 attacks were not hostages in the traditional sense because the terrorists never intended to use them to achieve a bargaining position. Those passengers were simply on board a skyjacked aircraft that was being used for a suicide mission. In such terrorist suicide mission situations, the techniques described in the “Escape or Surrender” section on page 3-8 may be the most useful.


David L. Heiserman, Editor

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Revised: June 06, 2015