Worldwide, there have been some developments in the situation of hostages around the world.
Most significantly, three Americans taken hostage by Iranian-controlled militia in Iraq have been freed, reportedly after the United States paid a large ransom to Iran. Their release received relatively little publicity.
They’re not the only hostages who were (or are) being held worldwide.
There are some important facts that may not be clear about that chart. First, note only individual and small-group hostage-taking is included. The mass hostage seizures and enslavements that Wahhabi groups like ISIL and Boko Haram are famous for do not show up on this mass. This is the retail, not wholesale, kidnappings.
Note also that almost all the captives are held by Islamic fundamentalists. The former kidnapping champions, the Mexican and Colombian narcos, barely make it onto the scoreboard.
How Many Hostages are Americans?
Only a few (like Jason Rezaian in Iran), and none of them military personnel.
The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (formerly DPMO, JCRC, etc. etc.) tracks American service members and support contractors missing or captured around the world. Six Americans are missing in the Middle East and North Africa region. Some of these are certainly bodies that have not been (and in the case of the losses at sea, almost certainly will not be) recovered. But without remains in hand, the case remains (no pun intended) open. Here’s the DPAA’s list.
Operation El Dorado Canyon, 1986
Capt. Paul F. Lorence, of San Francisco, U.S. Air Force, was lost on April 15, 1986, when his F-111 aircraft went down during a strike over Libya. (His navigator was recovered, dead, from shallow water in the Mediterranean -Ed.).
Operation Desert Storm, 1991
Lt. Cmdr. Barry T. Cooke, of Austin, Texas, U.S. Navy, was lost on Feb. 2, 1991, when his A-6 aircraft went down in the Persian Gulf.
Lt. Robert J. Dwyer, of Worthington, Ohio, U.S. Navy, was lost on Feb. 5, 1991, when his FA-18 aircraft went down in the Persian Gulf.
Operation Iraqi Freedom, 2003-2010
Mr. Kirk Von Ackermann, of Albuquerque, N.M., DoD contractor, was lost on Oct. 9, 2003, while working in Forward Operating Base Pacesetter, Iraq. (According to the blog his wife used to maintain, he disappeared from a roadside in the Sunni Triangle after a flat tire. He is an Army Intelligence veteran. Unfortunately, his disappearance was investigated by CID, which means it’s unlikely the investigation was competent. Finding out what happened to Von Ackermann hinges on some Iraqi (1) having a conscience and (2) not having been whacked by the US, other Iraqis, Iranian-sponsored militias, etc. -Ed).
Mr. Timothy E. Bell, of Mobile, Ala., DoD contractor, was lost on April 9, 2004, while working in Baghdad, Iraq. (Bell was taken hostage by Iraqi insurgents, along with one other American, when insurgents ambushed and overwhelmed an American convoy. The other man was freed by friendly forces. Bell was not found and his whereabouts and condition remain unknown -Ed.).
Mr. Adnan al-Hilawi, of Orlando, Fla., DoD contractor, was lost on March 3, 2007, while working in Baghdad, Iraq. We don’t have further information on him.
There are websites out there that list dozens, scores of captives in Iraq, but they’re based on SIGACTS or INTSUMs leaked by Manning or Snowden, and most of the numbers don’t have names attached to them — they’re simply RUMINT and BOGINT that got into the system.