Terrorist Hostage Negotiations: A Ban on Ransom Payments?

Whether abducted British aid worker Linda Norgrove was killed by her captors in Afghanistan or by friendly fire - U.S. investigators said Tuesday that they're not sure if it was a Taliban bludgeon, a U.S. one or a grouping of both - during a catastrophic Navy Seals raid to rescue her last Friday, Oct. 8, one thing seems clear: neither British nor U.S. officials measured negotiating a ransom for her release. And in that decision, those two countries emerge to be rare indeed.

With the kidnapping of foreign person soaring in both Afghanistan and al-Qaeda's growth area of North Africa, diplomat and security officials say militant organization are making fortunes off ransoms, which they claim are paid mainly by West European governments.

The information in some cases is enough to keep groups well-stocked with weapons and desert vehicles. In North Africa, for instance, al-Qaeda in the Maghreb, or AQIM, as the North African offshoot is called, has made at least €50 million, or $70 million, since 2003 by kidnapping foreigners in a region that has grown into one of the organization's fastest-growing employment grounds.

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