U.S. citizens are at risk of being kidnapped and taken hostage as extremist groups like ISIS and al-Qaida look for ways to finance their operations, according to a State Department caution released on Friday. ISIS, al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) “are particularly effective with kidnapping for ransom and are using ransom money to fund the range of their activities,” according to a State Department statement. “Kidnapping targets are usually Western citizens from governments or third parties that have established a pattern of paying ransoms for the release of individuals in custody."
This comes as U.S. government officials face increasing criticism from family members of ISIS hostages who feel they were intimidated into not paying ransom. ISIS militants have murdered two American journalists — James Foley and Steven Sotloff. The group has also threatened to kill 26-year-old Abdul-Rahman Kassig.
- Abigail Williams and F. Brinley Bruton