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  • Writer's pictureLAWGIC STRATUM


Author: Tanmoy Dey

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A hostage is a person who is captured by a criminal party or organization to force another party such as a relative, law enforcement, or government for their benefit or in demand of something, often under the danger of serious physical harm to the hostage(s) after they have received their demand. In simple terms, a hostage is a person who is held for the fulfillment of some definite conditions laid down by the party who has abducted them.

A hostage-taker is a person who seizes one or more hostages; if the hostages are present of their own will, then the receiver is known as a host.


Hostage-taking and kidnapping have increased at a higher rate since the mid-1990s, and they are the most favored tactics of terrorists. This growing phenomenon has affected many communities and countries in a very negative way. The terrorists mainly ask for a ransom amount of money or to free their members in return for the hostages. As we have seen in the case of 1994 kidnappings of westerners in India by Omerta Sheikh, he had kidnapped three foreigners in demand to release ten terrorists who were imprisoned in Kashmir and threatened to behead them if the militants were not released. This is one of the biggest examples of hostage-taking in terrorism.


The world has seen many hostage cases since terrorists have made hostage-taking one of their biggest tactics to fight against various communities or to meet their demands. Out of all the hostage cases I have significantly taken out three of the biggest hostage cases.

Three of the biggest hostage cases are:


This incident took place in Entebbe, Uganda in July 1976. An Air France airplane was hijacked on 27 June 1976, where two of the hijackers were members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and the other two were members of the Baader-Meinhof from Germany.

The Palestinian terrorists demanded the release of prisoners in Israel and four other countries. The Israeli intelligence agency Mossad provided information to the IDF which helped them to carry out the operation. The hijackers had threatened that they would kill the hostages if their prisoners were not released. After this threat, the planning of the rescue operation started. Armed resistance from the Uganda Army was the main motive of preparation. Most of the hostages were later released excluding 106 Israelis and Jews who were still held. Israeli special forces then planned and carried out a difficult and long-range rescue of the remaining 106 passengers on 4 July 1976. Out of all, 102 of the passengers were rescued and Lt Col Yonatan Netanyahu, who led the mission, was the only rescuer to be killed.


The 1994 kidnappings of Westerners in India were the kidnapping in New Delhi, India on 20 October 1994, by terrorists where they abducted four foreign tourists.

Three of those who were abducted were Paul Benjamin Ridout, Christopher Myles, and Rhys Partridge (Australian citizen of British heritage), who were from Great Britain, and lastly, Bela Nuss, who was an American from California.

The tourists were all trapped by young British Omar Sheikh who acted to be their friend and an India but was a member of Harkat-u-Ansar. He pretended to be an Indian citizen and changed his name to “Rohit Sharma”. The main motive of the kidnappers was to free their ten militant friends who were imprisoned in Kashmir and even warned them that if the militants were not released, they would behead the hostages.

Bela Nuss was released on 31 October by the police while they were investigating a robbery, police came across the house where she was kept. After the information given to the police by Nuss about the other hostages, police searched the house, arrested one of the drivers and the interrogation of two of the terrorists started who was arrested later at the site. This led to the village of Saharanpur, where the British hostages were kept. Omar Saeed was also arrested when he had returned to the Ghaziabad house to meet Nuss after he was told that he had stopped eating for a few days before. There was a pre-dawn shoot-out at the second location where two policemen and a militant were killed on 1 November. All the tourists were released without any injury or wounds.


Daniel Pearl was an American Journalist for the Wall Street Journal. He was abducted first and then later beheaded by militants in Pakistan.

On January 23, 2002, Pearl thought he was about to go for an interview with Sheikh Mubarak Ali Gilani at the village restaurant in downtown Karachi. He was kidnapped around 7:00 p.m. by a group of terrorists who were supposedly calling themselves the National Movement for the Restoration of Pakistani Sovereignty. The group claimed that Pearl was an American spy, and the militants used a Hotmail e-mail address to send their list of demands to the United States which included the release of all Pakistani militants who were in prison in the U.S and the release of a halted U.S shipment of F-16 fighter jets to the Pakistani government.


“We give you one more day if America will not

meet our demands we will kill Daniel. Then this

the cycle will continue, and no American journalist

could enter Pakistan”

(Pearl, Judea; Pearl, Ruth (May 14, 2008). "Right of Reply: Daniel Pearl's last words". The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved October 22, 2012)

The militants had released photos of Pearl handcuffed with a gun at his head and was holding a newspaper was attached along with the message.

Just nine days later, Pearl was beheaded by the terrorists. On May 16, in a grave in Gadap around 30 miles north of Karachi, Pearl’s head and decomposed body were cut into several pieces and were buried along with a known jacket. Three months after the murder, police found Pearl’s remains.

On February 21, 2002, again a video was released by the militants which were titled “The Slaughter of the Spy-Journalist, the Jew Daniel Pearl”. The video presented Pearl’s mutilated body which lasts for 3 minutes and 36 seconds.

In the video, Pearl said,

“My name is Daniel Pearl. I'm a Jewish American

from Encino, California, USA. I come from, uh, on

my father's side the family is Zionist. My father's

Jewish, my mother's Jewish, I'm Jewish. My family

follows Judaism. We've made numerous family

visits to Israel”

(Pearl, Judea; Pearl, Ruth (May 14, 2008). "Right of Reply: Daniel Pearl's last words". The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved October 22, 2012)

The militants had a new demand which was the conclusion of the video where they demanded the release of all Muslim prisoners in Guantanamo Bay. They threatened that, if their demands were not met, they would go on repeating such beheading again and again.


The Beslan School Seige lasted for three days. It started on 1 September 2004 where the militants had captured more than 1,100 people as hostages which also included more than 700 children. It resulted in the death of around 334 people where half of them were children.

It began when a group of armed Chechen separatists occupied School Number One (SNO) which is located in the town of Beslan, North Ossetia on 1 September 2004. The Hostage takers were the Riyad-us-Saliheen who was sent by the Chechen warlord Shamil Basayev. They demanded Russian withdrawal and also recognition of the independence of Chechnya. On the third day, Russian security forces attacked the buildings with tanks, incendiary rockets, and other heavy weapons.

Russian negotiators stated that the militants never stated their demands clearly although they did have notes handwritten by one of the hostages on a school notebook. In that, they demanded full Russian troop withdrawal from Chechnya and recognition of their independence.

The militants were summoned to have made the demands on September 11:00-11:30 in a letter which was sent along with a hostage doctor:

“Recognition of the independence of Chechnya at the U.N. and withdrawal of Russian troops and the Presence of the following people at the school: Aleksander Dzasokhov (president of North Ossetia), Murat Zyazikov (president of Ingushetia), Ruslan Aushev (former president of Ingushetia) and Leonid Roshal (a pediatrician).”

("Beslan terrorists confused Roshal with Rushailo". Russian Information Network. 7 October 2005. Retrieved 14 February 2007.)

The crisis event had both security and political repercussions in Russia which led to a series of federal government reforms amalgamating power in the Kremlin and strengthening the powers of the President of Russia. Even till now, questions remain unanswered as to how many militants were involved in the execution of the crisis and whether a section of the group escaped. Russian government faced a lot of criticism from the media, citizens, and even from other countries.


With Hostages, terrorists play a vital role in carrying out certain objectivesfor their benefit. Hostages go through both physical and psychological trauma. Keeping hostages hasbecome one of the ways to demand their needs. This has been going on fora very long time now.

Many laws and regulations have been formulated to bring an end to this horrifying event of keeping hostages. For example, Common Article 3 of the 1949 Geneva Conventions states that the taking of hostages during an internal conflict is a complete war crime and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever. No matter how hard the authorities are trying to bring this to an end, this seems to be never-ending and we as responsible human beings should try to create more campaigns and awareness against such horrifying activity.


1. Gardner LC. The Case That Never Dies: The Lindbergh Kidnapping. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press; 2004

2. Jonas G. Vengeance: The True Story of an Israeli Counter-Terrorist Team. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster; 2005

3. Lipsedge M. Hostage-taking and domestic sieges. Psychiat. 2004

4.J. M. Poland, Understanding Terrorism: Groups, Strategies, and Responses, 2nd edition (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2005).

5. Venkat Ananth: Major Hostage Situations

6. Article 3 of Geneva Conventions,,protections%20offered%20under%20this%20provision.

Edited by K.Prawin Subash, Senior editor, Lawgic Stratum.

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