Counter-Terrorism: Europeans Are More Flexible


March 15, 2012: Italy is angry at Britain for not consulting with the Italian government before launching a commando raid on May 8th to rescue a Briton and an Italian that had been kidnapped last May and held in northwestern Nigeria. The men holding the captives murdered them before the rescue attempt got under way (because members of the kidnap gang were arrested the day before). The raid was ordered when Nigeria obtained information that indicated the captives were going to be killed anyway.

The joint rescue mission was authorized by the British government after the location of the captives had finally been determined, after months of work. The captives were believed to be held by Islamic terrorists affiliated with the Nigerian Boko Haram (a Taliban-like group) that has been causing a lot of problems in northern Nigeria. Italy was informed of the raid as it was underway, but that gave Italy no opportunity to veto the effort. If the raid had succeeded there would still have been some protests from the Italian government but it would have been muted and probably not even made public.

Britain, France, and the United States have had frequent success in rescuing captives in situations like this. Success suppresses any disagreements with the governments of the captives involved. Britain did consult with Italy over what to do about getting the captives back. But for weeks, nothing was heard from the captors.  After the raid it was revealed that the kidnappers had been negotiating with representatives of the captives for the payment of a ransom. It is British government policy not to pay ransom, as this only encourages more kidnappings and, in the case of Islamic radical groups, finances more terrorism in general.

While Britain and the United States refuse to pay ransoms to terrorists other European nations are more flexible, even if their official policy is not to pay ransom. This has led to some large ransoms paid to Islamic terrorists and is believed responsible for an increase in Islamic terrorist activity.


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