SEPTEMBER 15, 2020
An 18-year-old Chinese student was found safe and well in Pyrmont, near Sydney Central Business District (CBD) after she fell victim to a “virtual kidnapping” scam. The student was reported missing by her friends before 2 a.m. local time on September 8. Her family received photos and videos of her being held at an unknown location over the Chinese messaging app WeChat. The man in the video claimed to be from the Chinese police and demanded her family pay a ransom in exchange for her safe release. Another person could be seen in the room with her in one of the images. According to NSW Police, the scam started in July when the teenager got an email from people claiming to be Chinese authorities. She believed the fraudsters were following orders from the Chinese police after her details were allegedly been illegally used on a package that was intercepted overseas. She agreed not to contact her friends and family while the investigation was ongoing. After locating the student, police established a crime scene at an apartment in Chatswood in the city's north where they spoke with a 22-year-old man. Police confirmed that more than $213,000 had been transferred by her family into an offshore account since July. Less than two months ago NSW police warned the community about virtual kidnapping scams targeting Chinese students studying in Australia. The scammers behind these "virtual kidnapping" scams continually adapt their scripts and methodology which are designed to take advantage of people's trust in authorities. (dailymail.co.uk, 20 September 2020)
SEPTEMBER 11, 2020
A couple was arrested on September 12 following the kidnapping of Elton B. Stephens Jr., a prominent 75-year-old retired businessman in Birmingham, Alabama. The two reportedly broke into Stephens rented house at around 1 a.m. on September 11 while he was sleeping. The couple stole items from the house before waking him up at 7 a.m. after which he was kidnapped and driven to their trailer in St. Clair County. He was driven back to his house at around 4:30 p.m. after he wire transfer $250,000 as ransom into their account. After his release, Stephens called the police, which launched an investigation along with the FBI and Secret Service. After the arrest, investigators recovered the money and other property, including a Toyota truck, that were stolen during the home invasion. Stephens is retired from EBSCO Industries, which was founded by his father, the late Elton B. Stephens in 1944. The company is ranked by FORBS as one of the top 200 largest privately held companies in the United States, involved in real estate developing, insurance and produces promotional products. (abc3340.com, 17 September 2020 & al.com, 17 September 2020)
SEPTEMBER 09, 2020
An indigenous employee, Adelio Mendoza, who was kidnapped along with the rancher and former vice president Oscar Denis, was released by their kidnappers from the Paraguayan People's Army (EPP). Mendoza, from the local Pai-Taviterá indigenous community, arrived at the ranch of former vice president from where they were kidnapped, after walking for several hours. He was examined by doctors and was reportedly in good health. The young man said that until his release, his captors kept him blindfolded and away from the politician who remain captive. (prensa.com, 14 September 2020)
The family of former Vice President Óscar Denis, kidnapped by the Paraguayan People's Army (EPP), sent three tucks of food to the town of Arroyito, in the department of Concepción to meet the rebel group demand to distribute food and other supplies in the amount of US$2 million to 40 indigenous communities. The food was distributed after stating that they are “against all kinds of violence." The bags as demanded, carried the logo of the rebel group and a ribbon around each package said "courtesy of the EPP. The second EPP demand, to release two of their jailed members, is unlikely to be met after the Interior Minister told reporters that it was an “impossible order to fulfill”. (infobae.com, 13 September 2020 & elpais.cr, 14 September 2020)
A worker from the Tranquerita ranch, found a pamphlet and an attached memory card containing two videos left by the cell of the Paraguayan People's Army (EPP), known as the Indigenous Brigade of the EPP with the group’s demands for the release of former Vice President Óscar Denis and his employee. The EPP demands that the former politician family distribute US$2 million worth of food and other supplies to 40 communities (US$50,000 to each community). The food bags must have the phrase "courtesy of the EPP" and the logo of the rebels printed on them and that the distribution of the goods must be covered by the press. The group indicated that their demands must be met within 8 days or they will execute the two hostages. In addition, the EPP demanded the release of Carmen Villalba and Alcides Oviedo Brítez two jailed members of the rebel group within 72 hours and set September 13 at 10 p.m. as a deadline. The videos on the memory card contained the instruction to follow for the release of their jailed members and a list of the beneficiary communities. (infobae.com, 12 September 2020)
Former Vice-President Óscar Denis Sánchez (74) and his employee Adelio Mendoza (21) are believed to have been kidnapped from his La Tranquerita, located about 6 miles/ 10km from Yby Yaú district in the department of Concepción. One of his daughters told reporters that the two went to visit an injure worker when they were kidnapped. Another worker late found the politician's abandoned vehicle, with his wedding ring and watch inside and no sign of the two men. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the kidnapping and his captors suspected members of the Paraguayan People's Army (EPP) rebel group have not made contact with the family. His daughters begged his abductors to contact them and give him vital medicines. The kidnapping comes after two 11-year-old Argentine girls--daughters of one of the group leaders—were killed on September 2 during a raid by security forces on the rebel’s camp located about 30Km/ 19 miles from the kidnapping location. Their killing led to a widespread criticism and calls for an impartial investigation into their killing. The EPP is a small Marxist rebel group which has carried out a string of kidnappings and killings in Paraguay. One of the group's main sources of income is the smuggling of marijuana and ransoms paid for those it has kidnapped. Over the past years, the rebels have displaced scores of Mennonite settlers from an area they seek to control. hoy.com.py, 9 September 2020 & bbc.com, 10 September 2020)
SEPTEMBER 06, 2020
Three suspected Islamist militants rammed their vehicle into a National Guard checkpoint at a central junction in the coastal city of Sousse. They then stabbed two police officers manning the checkpoint, killing one and seriously wounding the other. The militants stole the officers’ guns and a police vehicle and attempted to flee through the touristic El Kantaoui district. Security forces surrounded the attackers, who were wearing clothes bearing Islamic State (IS) slogans and shot them dead during a brief exchanged of fire. Though the Tunisian security services have become more efficient in recent years in preventing and responding to attacks, sleeper cells still pose a real threat in the country, especially with the return of jihadists from Syria, Iraq and Libya. A day later the IS claimed responsibility for the attack on Telegram messenger app.
AUGUST 24, 2020
Two bombing, including a suicide bombing, took place in Barangay Walled City in Jolo municipality, the capital of Sulu province. At around 11:55 a.m. local time, an IED hidden on a motorcycle exploded near to two military trucks parked in front Paradise Food Plaza along Serantes Street. The second explosion, carried out by a female suicide bomber, took place at around 1:15 p.m. along Sanchez Street, between a branch of the Development Bank of the Philippines and the Cathedral of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. At least 14 people were killed in the attack, including, eight members of the security forces and six civilians, and 27 security personnel and 48 civilians were wounded. Following the attack, Jolo mayor issued a lockdown order and the Philippine Coast Guard in Southwestern Mindanao, as well as in the areas of Sulu, Tawi-tawi, Basilan and Zamboanga, was placed on high alert. Though no group claimed responsibility for the attack, security officials suspect that an Abu Sayyaf fiction, led by Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan, which claimed responsibility for the suicide bombing outside the same cathedral last year, was behind the attack. Suicide bombing attacks are relatively rare attack method in the country, with six such attacks reported in the past three years, despite decades of Islamists separatist conflict.