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How to Survive If You Are Taken Hostage

Any traveler could become a hostage. The odds of that happening are extremely low when the number of travelers is compared to the number of people that have actually become hostages. However, there is always that slim chance that a traveller could end up being at the wrong place at the wrong time. With this in mind, the traveler should make sure that his/her affairs are in order before they travel abroad. Items of particular importance to an individual in a hostage situation are the currentness of an up-to-date will, an insurance policy and a power of attorney for the spouse. If these items have been taken care of before departure, the traveller will not have to worry about his family's welfare; the hostage can then focus all of his/her efforts on the one thing of paramount importance - SURVIVAL.

To survive, travelers should realize that there are certain dynamics involved in a hijacking or a kidnapping, and, to increase their ability to survive, they must understand how these interacting forces affect the end result. Fear can trigger a disaster, and it does not take much for some individuals to set off a defensive round of violence. Whether it is a demonstration of violence to reinforce a demand or to incite fear in the minds of the hostages, the violence will be motivated by fanaticism and/or fear and that violence will be directed at the person(s) who are perceived to be a threat or a nuisance to the hijackers.

To minimize the possibility of being selected for special attention by the perpetrators and to maximize your ability to survive a hostage situation, here are some guidelines to remember:

Once the takeover has occurred, you may be separated by citizenship, sex, race, etc. Your passport may be confiscated and your carry-on luggage ransacked. The aircraft may be diverted to another country. The hijackers may enter into a negotiation phase which could last indefinitely and/or the crew may be forced to fly the aircraft to yet another destination. During this phase passengers may be used as a bargaining tool in negotiations, lives may be threatened, or a number of passengers may be released in exchange for fuel, landing/departure rights, food, etc.. This will be the longest phase of the hijacking:

The last phase of the hijacking is resolution, be it by use of a hostage rescue team or resolution through negotiation. In the latter instance, the hijackers may simply surrender to authorities or abandon the aircraft, crew and passengers. In the case of a hostage rescue operation to resolve the hijacking:

Excerpted from:U. S. Department of State, Overseas Security Advisory Council. U. S. State Department Publication 10214. November, 1994. pgs. 37-39. Note: As of July, 1997 this was the latest non-internet-published U.S. State Department document pertaining to this topic.

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