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venerdì 27 settembre 2013

How to kidnap a foreigner in Yemen

The international media blames Al-Qaeda or Yemeni tribesmen for the recent spate of foreigners kidnapped in Sana’a. But what if  kidnapping has evolved into a new business model for ordinary Yemenis? Here’s how I think kidnapping as a business could be done by the average Yemeni.

1. Recce all over Sana’a for foreigners who are suitable targets. Avoid those who are driving around in armored cars—these will be Western embassy types who have many guns to shoot you with.

2. Hadda area is good for “recce” missions—a high concentration of Westerners due to the espresso bars and Western restaurants there. In fact, hanging out at espresso cafes is a good way to choose your potential targets. Do not order “shahi ahmar” or “bunni”—you reveal yourself as a “reefi” bumpkin type. You must speak Italian—order cafe latte (kaa-fay laa-tay) or cappuccino (kaa-fu-shi-no).

3. Choose a European target. Kidnapping Americans are useless, as the U.S. government will never pay ransom—they may also drone you dead instead. But then again, I may be wrong on this point, as America has changed—they now kill their own citizens in Yemen without charge, jury or trial. So maybe Americans are good targets nowadays—just make sure you have enough food supplies, as Americans eat a lot.

4. When your target foreigner has been chosen, it’s time to prepare. Borrow some guns and a Land Cruiser or Vitara, and ask two or three qat-chewing friends to help you. You must give them a commission—this is Yemen, after all. You don’t want to get lots of ransom money and then get kidnapped by your ex-accomplices for cheating them.

5. Kidnap the target foreigner from the streets of Sana’a in broad daylight. The best way to do this is to overtake the foreigner, suddenly swerve in and stop your car in front of his car. Foreigners are different from Yemenis—they will not purposely slam into your car to teach you a lesson. Grab and bundle the target into your car immediately and drive off. Leave the target’s car—many have GPS trackers.

6. Do not kidnap at night—power failures happen all the time and in darkness, you may kidnap the wrong target, like a Yemeni sheikh’s son. Remember: the goal is to make money and not to be shot dead on Khamsin Street by the sheikh’s bodyguards.

7. Very important—always leave a telltale Al-Qaeda signature during the kidnapping— for example, you and your friends can shout, “Allahu Akbar” three times before driving off. The police will never investigate when they think Al-Qaeda did it.

8. Contact the target’s embassy in Sana’a. Negotiate for tons of U.S. dollars (new notes, not the old ones— if not, the “hawala” chaps will stiff you). At the start, ask for at least $10 million—anything less, and they will know what a dumb “gabili” you are.

9. Issue a threatening video and upload to YouTube if the Western government involved tries to shylock you.

10. Important—when you get the ransom, go to Dubai, open a bank account and join the rest of the Yemeni criminals who hide there.

Haykal Bafana is a writer and blogger based in Sana’a.

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