x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Emirati held hostage for $5m ransom is freed

Sheikh Khalifa had ordered the Ministry of Interior to put together a rescue plan after man was abducted by a gang in Nigeria.

An Emirati father abducted by a gang in Nigeria who demanded a US$5 million ransom has been freed and his kidnappers arrested.

Mohammed Khamis Majed, from Umm Al Quwain, was taken hostage on a two-day business trip in January. The written ransom demand was sent to his brother Majed Khamis Majed with a warning that the gang would kill the hostage if he alerted authorities.

He ignored their demands and the President, Sheikh Khalifa, ordered the Ministry of Interior to put together a rescue plan.

The ministry’s Preventive Security and Federal Investigation department set up two teams, one in Nigeria and one in the UAE, led by the department’s director, Maj Gen Abdul Aziz Maktoum Al Sharifi.

The two teams tracked the kidnappers for two months before pouncing. “The Ministry of Interior did not give in to the kidnappers’ demands and the teams began extensive work that lead to locating the gang’s boss in Nigeria,” said Gen Al Sharifi.

Investigators stalled the kidnappers by keeping negotiations open while search teams tracked them down. “The UAE officers made a breakthrough when they arrested the gang chief and other suspects in the UAE and Nigeria,” he said.

The gang chief led the teams to the other kidnappers and, with the assistance of Nigerian police, they rescued Mr Majed and arrested his armed captors.

Maj Gen Al Sharifi said the Nigerian government and the UAE Embassy in Nigeria had taken the utmost care to ensure the hostage was not harmed in the rescue.

The entire operation was followed closely by Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, the Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, and Sheikh Saif bin Zayed, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior.

Sheikh Saif called the rescued man’s family yesterday to congratulate them on his release and inform them of Mr Majed’s arrival by plane later that day.

Sheikh Saif said: “We will always remain vigilant to criminal forces, though they use skilful criminal tactics, thanks to the supreme leadership’s unflinching support and continuous modernisation of security forces."

Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, the Foreign Minister, commended the efforts of the Ministry of Interior and thanked the Nigerian government and UAE Embassy in Nigeria for their help.

Upon his arrival on home soil, Mr Majed was put under full medical supervision.

Maj Gen Al Sharifi said the gang’s boss had a technique of luring his victims through a number of accomplices in various countries. He warned Emiratis to take all necessary precautions when travelling to a country with unstable security and to follow UAE Embassies’ advice. He also called on travellers to inform diplomatic missions abroad about their destination and whereabouts.

Two businessmen, an Italian and a Briton, abducted by Nigerian gangs were shot dead this month after attempts by British special forces to rescue them failed.

salamir@thenational.ae