Kidnapping: A Very Efficient Business

Kidnapping for ransom is almost always a deliberative enterprise. Kidnappers perform research, assess risks, manage costs, and, if they’re in it for the long term, build reputations for orderly resolution. Some groups even develop an infrastructure to support their operations, though this is expensive and may increase the number of expectant beneficiaries (if operations are mounted on credit, for example). When kidnappers keep hostages for days, weeks, or months, most invest in keeping them alive (a corpse is not worth much, except in the Iliad) and in decent health. Captives with medical conditions are usually allowed to receive medications; in 2010 al-Qaeda let a French woman with breast cancer take chemo drugs.

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