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Paying terrorist ransoms: Frayed consensus, uneven outcomes & undue harm
Challenging conventional wisdom
Hello to all the new subscribers to Insight Intelligence — we’ve crossed the 2k threshold! Thank you very much to all who have been sharing this newsletters with colleagues. It makes a big difference in growing our community! This week’s article is an open-access one that I co-authored with Alex Wilner at Carleton University. We’ve been doing lots of work on terrorist kidnapping for ransom, challenging the conventional wisdom. Have a read, and let me know what you think!
Terrorist groups are believed to be financed, in part, by ransoms paid for kidnap victims. As part of global efforts to counter the financing of terrorism and prevent further terrorist attacks (including more kidnappings), the international community has attempted to implement a moratorium on the payment of ransoms. Despite a unified stance, ransom payments to terrorist groups have continued. An exploratory review of 20 countries reveals significant variation between public statements and private practice when it comes to ransom payments. While it is clear that states, organizations, and individuals are paying terrorist ransoms, it is far less clear what effect this has had on terrorism itself. A review of three case studies shows significant variation in the relationship (or perhaps, lack thereof) between ransom payments and terrorist attacks. These findings suggest a need for more study on the effects of ransom payments on terrorist capabilities, and a re-assessment of existing “no-ransom” policies.
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