Counting Lives in a Theater of Terror - an Analysis of Media-oriented Hostage Takings in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia

Judith Tinnes


This article summarizes key findings of a quantitative and qualitative analysis of media-oriented hostage takings involving local people and foreigners in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia during a five-year period (01-01-2004 to 12-31-2008). Based on a long-term tracking of Islamist online publications, the chosen approach did not only allow to identify static values, but also granted insights into developments over time. Characteristic patterns regarding responsible organizations, nationalities of victims, distribution channels for hostage media, etc. could in this way be identified.  The kidnappers' organizational affiliation turned out to be the most significant variable. It decisively affected other factors like number of abductions, likelihood of fatal outcome or duration of a kidnapping. As a consequence, the highest attention should be given to  this parameter when dealing with hostage situations. Another key finding is that insurgents have been increasingly refraining from broadcasting visual representations of extreme violence. This article is based on the German-language dissertation J. Tinnes. “Internetnutzung islamistischer Terror- und Insurgentengruppen unter besonderer Berücksichtigung von medialen Geiselnahmen im Irak, Afghanistan, Pakistan und Saudi-Arabien” -  in English: “Internet Usage of Islamist Terrorist and Insurgent Groups with Special Regard for Media-oriented Hostage Takings in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia”).[1] In the following I shall summarize key findings in order to make them accessible to non-German speaking readers.

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Perspectives on Terrorism is  a journal of the Terrorism Research Initiative and the Center for Terrorism and Security Studies

ISSN  2334-3745 (Online)

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