Retrieving hostages is always a difficult task.
The first concern is always: Saving the lives of the hostages taken.
The secondary concern–for American police agencies–is: Preserving the lives of the hostage-takers.
While some people question the point of taking pains for the lives of captors, there are several reasons for doing so.
The first is that if others are behind the hostage-taking, their identities will never be revealed without testimony from their confederates.
The second is that people who feel they have been marked for death are likely to go out in a blaze of glory–taking their hostages with them.
During the late 1960s and early 1970s, American law enforcement agencies began creating Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) teams. These units were armed with automatic weapons and trained to enter barricaded buildings. They were also given special training in hostage negotiation.
Their men came from the most physically and mentally fit officers of those departments. And the police departments whose SWAT teams were universally recognized as the best were the LAPD and NYPD.
At the Federal level, the FBI’s Hostage Rescue Team (HRT) stands as the go-to unit for other Federal law enforcement agencies. Created in 1982, its duties include:
- Apprehending barricaded subjects;
- Executing helicopter operations and rescue missions;
- Executing mobile assaults;
- Performing high-risk raids, searches, arrests, and warrants;
- Coordinating manhunt and rural operations; and
- Providing force protection for FBI personnel overseas.
Hostage Rescue Team
The first commandment for American SWAT teams–local, state and Federal–is: Don’t try to enter a barricaded area unless (1) hostages’ lives are directly at risk; and (2) there is no other way to effect their rescue.
Even if hostages are murdered before a SWAT team arrives on the scene, officers will usually try to enter into negotiations with their captors. They will send in food and other comfort items in hopes of persuading the criminals to surrender peacefully.
These negotiations can last for hours or days–so long as police feel they have a chance of success.
But there is another way agencies can try to rescue hostages. It might be called, “The KGB Method.”
The KGB served as a combination secret police/paramilitary force throughout the 74-year life of the Soviet Union. Its name (“Commitee for State Security”) has changed several times since its birth in 1917: Cheka, NKVD, MGB and KGB.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and the formation of the Russian Federation, its name was officially changed to the FSB (Federal Security Service).
By any name, this is an agency known for its brutality and ruthlessness. The numbers of its victims literally run into the millions.
On September 30 1985, four attaches from the Soviet Embassy in Beirut, Lebanon, were kidnapped by men linked to Hizbollah (“Party of God”), the Iranian-supported terrorist group.
The kidnappers sent photos of the four men to Western news agencies. Each captive was shown with an automatic pistol pressed to his head.
The militants demanded that Moscow pressure pro-Syrian militiamen to stop shelling the pro-Iranian militia in Lebanon’s northern port city of Tripoli.
And they threatened to execute the four Soviet captives, one by one, unless this demand was met.
The Soviet Union began negotiations with the kidnappers, but could not secure a halt to the shelling of Tripoli.
Only two days after the kidnappings, the body of Arkady Katov, a 30-year-old consular secretary, was found in a Beirut trash dump. He had been shot through the head.
That was when the KGB took over negotiations.
Insignia of the KGB
They kidnapped a man known to be a close relative of a prominent Hizbollah leader. Then they castrated him, stuffed his testicles in his mouth, shot him in the head, and sent the body back to Hizbollah.
The KGB then informed the Hizbollah leader: We know the names of other close relatives of yours, and the same will happen to them if our diplomats are not released immediately.
Soon afterward, the remaining three Soviet attaches were released only 150 yards from the Soviet Embassy.
Hizbollah telephoned a statement to news agencies claiming that the release was a gesture of “goodwill.”
In Washington, D.C., then-CIA Director William Casey decided that the Soviets knew the language of Hizbollah.
Both the United States and Israel–the two nations most commonly targeted for terrorist kidnappings–have elite Special Forces units.
Military hostage-rescue units operate differently from civilian ones. They don’t care about taking alive hostage-takers for later trials. The result is usually a pile of dead hostage-takers.
These Special Forces could be ordered to similarly kidnap the relatives of whichever Islamic terrorist leaders are responsible for the latest outrages.
Ordering such action would instantly send an unmistakable message to Islamic terrorist groups: Screw with us at your own immediate peril.
In the United States, such elite units as the U.S. Navy SEALS, Green Berets and Delta Force stand ready. They require only the orders.