For those out there travelling at the moment I wanted to pass on a bit of a head's up. My day job is as the security coordinator for an alliance of humanitarian organizations globally, so I see lots of security related reports cross my desk. Quite recently Al Qaeda has urged its sub groups in Yemen, Mali, Somalia, Pakistan and elsewhere to step up their kidnapping attacks on westerners. There are a number of reports that the various groups holding northern Mali, including Al Qaeda in the Islamic Magreb (AQIM) intend to do this to fund their upcoming fight with ECOWAS to hold on to the north. Since there are no westerners in northern Mali, this will mean bordering nations may be at risk.
The odds of being kidnapped are statistically, vanishingly rare. But some tips I always pass on to our staff are:
- Kidnappings are almost always well planned. Targets are observed for several days or sometimes weeks before an attempt is made. So as long as you don't stay in one place too long, you are fine.
- Keep and eye out for people observing you for more than can be explained by normal local curiousity if you are stopped somewhere.
- Don't be the first vehicle down a remote road first thing in the morning or last through at sunset if possible.
- Don't travel after dark outside urban areas.
- Trust your instincts...if something doesn't feel right, it probably isn't.
Don't want to upset anyone but better to keep this in mind, especially in West and North Africa at the moment.
"We've got a date with Destiny...and she's ordered the lobster!"