Kidnapping in the mining and oil industry

Kidnapping in the mining and oil industry is very high in some African countries. Matthew Maguireo managed to return from the gruesome experience of kidnapping in the mining and oil industry of the Niger Delta.

The risks and possibilities of kidnappings are extremely high when travelling in Africa, especially when one is working in the mining and oil industry. Matthew Maguireo of Yanchep was working in Nigeria and held captive for nine gruelling months. When a man kicked in a door and started spraying AK47 around the room, missing Matthew’s foot by an inch, he thought this was the beginning of the end of his life.

The armed men walked in the room and robbed everything belonging to Matthew and other foreign key personnel and referred to them as “white gold”. The father of four was working in Nigeria when he was captured along with 27 other oil workers en-route to an oil rig in the Niger Delta and held hostage for nine months.

The men were taken deep into the jungle with speedboats, within 24 hours they were surrounded by more than 50 armed men cheering. Matthew and other international employees of the oil industry were held hostage by the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND). Matthew, who is originally from the UK, later found out that he, along other oil workers were held hostage in exchange of the MEND leader Henry Okah who was arrested in Nigeria for arms trafficking.

For long nine months, Matthew was beaten, threatened with death and even forced to starve. Every day he woke up thinking about what he could do to survive, so he collected water from rain in discarded bottles to keep him alive. With his family not aware of his status and whether or not he was still alive, Matthew was continuously lied to about his release date. Taken by a speedboat to an island off the coast, Matthew was finally released after nine months of torture.

Kidnapping in the mining and oil industry are very high in countries like Nigeria and Niger and the locations usually include workplaces, hotels and transit. During our H.E.A.T courses we specialize in kidnapping in the mining and oil industry to equip key personnel travelling to high risk countries with the necessary tools and knowledge to survive.



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Post-traumatic stress disorder PTSD

Post-traumatic stress disorder

After experiencing a traumatic event it is normal to experience shock and anxiety. In this article, we are going to discuss post-traumatic stress disorder, the reactions to traumatic attacks and the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.

What is post-traumatic stress disorder PTSD?
Post-traumatic stress disorder PTSD is your body’s reaction to traumatic shocking events that leaves you feeling unsafe and helpless, potentially putting your life at risk. Although PTSD varies from person to person, it is congenial to say that PTSD is mostly caused by traumatic incidents such as war, assault, rape, car crash, terrorist attacks, natural disasters, catastrophes and kidnapping to name a few. The effects of post-traumatic stress disorder PTSD  can be complex and may last longer than expected.

The symptoms of PTSD may only start showing hours or days after the traumatic even occurred. Symptoms of PTSD can be broken down in three categories:

Re-experiencing symptoms – these symptoms include reliving the trauma over again through flashbacks, bad dreams and frightening thoughts.
Avoidance – these symptoms include staying away from events or environments that may trigger the memory of the traumatic event. They also include feeling emotionally numb, strong guilt, depression and worry, and finally, losing interest in activities you once found enjoyable and having trouble remembering dangerous events.
Hyper-arousal – these symptoms include being easily startled, feeling tense or edgy, having difficulty sleeping and having angry outbursts.

Risk factors of PTSD may include (but are not limited to):
• Having a history of mental illness
• Living through dangerous and traumatic events
• Having no social support after the occurrence of the event
• Feeling extreme fear

Resilience factors that may help reduce the risk of PTSD include:
• Seeking support from close friends and family or otherwise professional help
• Different coping strategies such as getting through the event and learning from it
• Finding support groups that can assist you with your ordeal
• Being able to cope and react without fear

In our H.E.A.T course we cover a module on Post-traumatic stress disorder as part of our 2 Day Kidnap Mitigation course.

BOOK YOUR COURSE TODAY and learn how to deal with traumatic stress disorder in hostile environments.


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Cultural Sensitivities and differences in Africa

Here are some of the most important cultural sensitivities and differences in Africa to consider whilst travelling on business.

According to An “Most people are aware of some cultural differences and sensitivities when doing business globally, but not of how widespread they are. For example, when doing business in the Middle East, one should never show the bottom of one’s foot. In Japan, be sure to accept a business card with both hands and understand that the word “no” is rarely ever heard in a business meeting.”

When conducting a business it is important to consider the medium in which you conduct your business, such as communication done via the internet, as it is advised that you communicate verbally effective with your international counterparts. It is also advised that you refrain from using slang and idiomatic phrases in order to ensure that there is clear understanding between you and your counterparts.

Cultural sensitivities vary in the African continent, however, they remain crucial and necessary to implement and understand.

Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe:
President Robert Mugabe has been the nation of Zimbabwe’s president for more than 24 years and is widely known for his extreme governance of his country. When South African renowned music band Freshly Ground was banned from performing in Zimbabwe, it rang alarms in the cultural sensitivities of Zimbabwe’s Authorities. The band which is formed by South Africans, Zimbabweans and Mozambicans and has a huge pan-African fan-base was banned following a video they released that allegedly portrays a “spitting image-style of the ageing president Robert Mugabe as a chicken afraid to relinquish power.” Zimbabwe reportedly has a law that forbids people to make anecdotes about the president.

Anti-gay laws in Africa:
Although not all African countries have officially passed the anti-gay law, the majority of the African nation is extremely sensitive when it comes to homosexuality. In recent news, Uganda has been in hot water and overly criticized worldwide for passing the anti-gay law act. The anti-homosexuality law act was officially passed by the parliament of Uganda on 20 December 2013 with a life in prison sentence to those found guilty of the “crime’. According to The Guardian, “Uganda has suffered an alarming rise in attacks on gay and lesbian people since it passed an anti-homosexuality law late last year, research has found”. Persons found guilty of violating the act are subjected to mob violence, homes burned down, blackmail, lost jobs, arrests, and evictions and suicide.

The Guardian recorded that a report compiled by Sexual Minorities Uganda, detailed a number of recorded incidents had increased tenfold. At least 25 people were reported to have fled Uganda, seeking asylum in neighbouring Kenya and Rwanda. The report also recorded violent 162 incidents since the legislation was passed by parliament.  However, Uganda is not the only African country practising this harsh punishment. Leading Nigerian authors’ including Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Jackie Kay have voiced their opinion and condemn the draconian new anti-gay law in Nigeria.

Other countries that have been reported as being anti-gay but have not officially passed a punishable law or have a less severe punishment, include Zambia, Cameroon, Swaziland, Tanzania, Tunisia, Sierra Leone, Gambia, Ghana, Morocco, Liberia, Malawi, Libya, Kenya, Algeria. Ethiopia is expected to pass a severe anti-gay bill, while the Zimbabwean government has carried out anti-homosexuality campaigns since 1995. In other cases, countries such as South Africa are liberal when it comes to homosexuality and sexual orientation and have even legalised gay marriage across the nation.

How do you protect your homosexual key personnel working in Africa?
Islamic Laws in Africa:
The Islam religion is spread wide across African countries and has been so since the early 7th Century, making Africa the largest Islam continent outside of Arabia. Islam in Africa has been forced to be reshaped by the ever changing social, economic and political conditions in Africa, however, it remains resilient in many African countries.

In Egypt, Islam is predominantly practised across the whole nation, specifically in the major city of Cairo. With a population of approximately 81.7 million people, with 94% of the population being Muslim and the 6% Coptic Christian. With the Egyptian state pressing its crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood, it is important to be aware of the rules that govern the Islam beliefs when traveling to Egypt, such as covering your full body as a woman walking the streets of Cairo.

In Nigeria, the nation is plagued by a great deal of different religious group with 50% being Islam, 40% Christian and 10% has indigenous beliefs. In recent news, the Nigerian insurgency, Boko Haram (which means Western education is forbidden), has shattered news all across the world after abducting more than 200 girls for over a month. Although a great number of Islamists groups have come out in protests denouncing Boko Haram as Islam, Boko Haram revealed in their recent video that they have now converted all the abducted girls into Muslim.

In very recent news, a Sudanese woman has been sentenced to death for renouncing Islam and marrying a Christian man. Meriam Yehya Ibrahim was charged for allegedly committing apostasy for leaving Islam and becoming a Christian by a court in Khartoum. The heavily 8 months pregnant woman was also sentenced to a 100 lashes for marrying a non-Muslim man. The woman was given 3 days to recant but after refusing to return to Islam, she was sentenced to be hanged to death.

How do you train and protect your key personnel working in Africa on cultural sensitivities?

DOWNLOAD our H.E.A.T manual and learn more about the different cultural sensitivities in Africa.


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Kidnapping in Africa

Kidnapping in Africa is one of the biggest threats to key-personnel working in Africa. Here are some of kidnapping scenarios, statistics and hot zones in Africa.

According to The Liberty White paper Series on Kidnap, Ransom and Extortion, “Africa has experienced a significant increase in kidnappings for both political reasons and financial gain in recent years. Kidnap events in West Africa and parts of central Africa, where many foreign mining and oil companies operate, are common.”

Nation Master reported that in 2006 and the years before the results for kidnapping in some African countries were:
• South Africa – 6.65% in 2004
• Swaziland – 8.61% in 2006
• Tunisia – 5.77% in 2006
• Zimbabwe – 1.58% in 2006
• Algeria – 0.44 in 2006
• Morocco – 0.27 in 2006

In recent news:
• According to World News Report, “Outbreaks of violence in Kidal, Mali has killed at least one government security official, injured civilians and UN peacekeepers, and resulted in the seizure of government buildings and taking of hostages”.
• Nigeria’s militant Islamist group Boko Haram has been described by the USA president Barack Obama as the most dangerous terrorist organization. Boko Haram has caused havoc in Nigeria through bombings, assassinations and now the abduction of more than 200 school girls. It has been over a month now that Boko Haram has kidnapped more than 200 Chibok girls and has forced them to convert to Islam as well as threatened to sell some.
The Liberty White paper series reported that “Militant groups and criminal gangs are expanding their activities leading to a higher frequency of kidnappings across a widening geographic area”. The report also stated the following:
• Al Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) claimed responsibility for an attack on a uranium mine in central Niger, September 2010, where seven foreign executives were taken hostage. Four remained in captivity and are believed to be held in northern Mali. The French military have been used to track down and rescue the hostages.
• Since 2008, AQIM have taken more than 25 foreign hostages, a number of whom remain in captivity. AQIM alone have reportedly collected over US$70 million in ransom payments from 2006 to 2011.

The Liberty White papers suggests that “employers are responsible for the welfare and safety of their personnel. While most companies have detailed risk mitigation strategies in place, kidnappings are not always avoidable”. Those most at risk of kidnappings include foreign employees of multinational companies (particularly in the mining, oil and construction sectors), non-government (NGO) staff, tourists and foreign diplomats have also been targets.
Country profiles according to The Liberty White paper:

Eight countries in West and Central Africa:

1. Nigeria: Fighting kidnapping on two fronts

Risk: Very high
Hot spots: Niger Delta and northern Nigeria
Targets: Mining, oil, transportation and construction workers.
Locations: Workplace, (including offshore), hotels and in transit.

2. Mali: Northern Mali is a base for al-Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb

Risk: Very high
Hot spots: Northern Mali but very high throughout the country.
Targets: All foreigners are at risk.
Locations: Public locations, hotels and in transit.

3. Mauritania: A lack of security provides kidnappers with greater opportunity.

Risk: Very high
Hot spots: Nouakchott, south-east and eastern Mauritania.
Targets: All foreigners are at risk.
Locations: In transit and public locations.

4. Niger: Increasing threat on the northern border with Mali

Risk: Very high
Hot spots: Niger-Mali border region, Arlit
Targets: Mining and construction workers
Locations: Workplace, hotels and transit

5. Burkina Faso: Increasing threat on the northern border with Mali

Risk: Medium
Hot spots: Northern Burkina Faso
Targets: Militants are seeking to identify foreign targets
Locations: Unknown

6. Ghana: Scams can lead to kidnapping and extortion

Risk: Low
Hot spots: None identified
Targets: None identified
Locations: None identified

7. Guinea: Monitor events in Mali for change

Risk: Low
Hot spots: None identified
Targets: None identified
Locations: None identified

8. Democratic Republic of Congo: Mining workers likely to become targets as industry expands.

Risk: High
Hot spots: Kinshasa, Kivu and other north eastern border regions.
Targets: Currently NGO workers, potential for mining and oil workers
Locations: Workplace, residence and in transit
Republic of Congo: Security issues in the DRC often spill over into the Congo, therefore the kidnapping risks are low.

During our H.E.A.T Kidnap Mitigation course, we teach you how to recognize a potential kidnapping threat and also, how to survive if captured.

DOWNLOAD our H.E.A.T manual today and read about Kidnap Mitigation course.


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Conflict zones and terrorism in African countries

Africa is a continent in conflict. Here is a list and description of some of the most gruesome terrorism in African countries.

The Sectarian Violence in Central African Republic (CAR)

Following an Alliance of Muslim rebel groups from the north of Central African Republic united in March 2013 to overthrow a government that has ruled CAR for a decade, the rebels known as Seleka were quickly derided by Christian groups in Bangui, the capital of CAR, after the rebel groups went on a rampage of looting, randomly raping and killing non-combatants.

The Sectarian violence against Muslim in the capital city started when Christian groups accused Muslim groups of allegedly cooperating with the Muslim rebel government that has since stepped aside leaving the leadership of the country in the hands of former Bangui mayor Catherine Samba-Panza as interim president.

Central African Republic is a predominately Christian country and only has a substantial number of Muslim groups across the country specifically to the north near the boarders of Chad and Sudan where Muslim groups are large in numbers. Even though some Muslims have bonds in the neighbouring countries of Chad and Sudan and have since fled to these countries, some of them have been living in CAR for many years. In 2014, thousands of people still remain in hiding and thousand other are effectively restrained and completely unable to escape the terrorist attacks.

The Sudan-South Sudan Boarder War

After 22 years in civil war with each other, Sudan and South Sudan finally ended their long term feud over oil-rich regions when the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement was reinforced making it the longest running civil war in Africa. The war over the control of oil-rich regions and fair distribution of power and wealth amongst the Sudanese population took millions of lives.
With high diversity ethnically and linguistically, South Sudan attained independence in 2011 under the leadership of South Sudanese politician Salva Kirr Mayardit, making it the first new country in Africa after Eritrea part from Ethiopia in 1993, however the two countries still remain bound together by their oil shared industry.

The Libya civil war violence

Located at the top of North Africa with the open boarders of Tunisia and Egypt, Libya is a country to be reckoned with. Shaped by ancient Roman and Greek conurbations and the fine sandy African Sahara, Libya is no doubt one of Africa’s greatest magnetisms. With a population of 6.3 million Libyans and Arabic speaking, making the majority of the population is Islam. This great land attained its independence in 1951 and with the discovery of oil in 1959 Libya was fast transformed into the one of the rapidly growing economies in the world at the time. However, for more than 40 years the evolving African country was lead and governed by Muammar Muhammad Abu Minya al Gaddafi.

Well-known to the world as Colonel Gaddafi, this charismatic frontrunner was not only the state of the head of Libya but as well as the controller of the armed forces during the revolution of 1969.  For countless years Gaddafi had been under fire from the Western Intelligence regarding his leadership style and the numerous terrorists attacks that left many families distraught and many more dead in the mid 80’s. In 2011 tensions and rebellion erupted in Libya which rapidly formed what was known as the Libya Civil War. The eminent turmoil was formed by various militias such as guerrillas and Islamists who all came together in the pursuit of overthrowing their four decade leader Gaddafi.

This bloody war and terrorist acts claimed lives of hundreds of civilians and left some wounded and imprisoned. After military interventions by the American and European forces Gaddafi remained unmoved. His resistance even defeated attempts of mediation efforts by South African president Jacob Zuma, Gaddafi insisted he would keep on fighting. Unfortunately for Gaddafi, his undying defiance saw many UN nations open attack on him and defying and condemning him on the grounds of human rights violations. Gaddafi was later captured and killed after a long civil war, leaving Libya still at war between the militias who fought against Gaddafi. This unfortunate uprising warfare is now known as the Libya Post-civil war.

When sending your corporate key personnel on business to Africa, make sure that you fulfil your duty of care by equipping them with the skills and knowledge of how to survive in Africa. Our H.E.A.T courses cover topics on terrorism and how to survive in such hostile environments while travelling in Africa.

Request information on our H.E.A.T courses today and also

DOWNLOAD our H.E.A.T manual right NOW to learn more about awareness training in hostile environments in Africa.


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Design your ultimate survival kit

A survival kits come in many shapes and sizes, but their importance lies in the ability of the user as well as the environment in which the user finds themselves.

A survival kit is the mark of an individual who has a preparedness attitude and recognizes that everyday events can be turned upside down by factors beyond your control. In January 2010, a filmmaker walked into his hotel reception lobby after a day’s work only to be engulfed in darkness and falling debris. Within a couple of seconds, the journalist was buried under rubble, but was saved from being crushed to death by a concrete lintel that jammed between him, a wall and the collapsed roof of the lobby. Although he did not have an earthquake survival kit with him, the filmmaker did have an iPhone and used the torch application to wiggle his way into the lift shaft and a more safe location. Whilst in the lift shaft, he accessed a Bear Grylls survival application and was able to read about surviving by drinking his urine and other Bear Grylls suggestions.

You might not think that you will ever be exposed to needing a survival kit for the Apocalypse or a hurricane or any other disaster, but then you might also think that it is the government’s responsibility to save you in the event of a natural or man-made disaster. Yet, the need for designing your own survival kit, whether an urban survival kit or a mini survival kit, is critical to your success whenever you find yourself in a dangerous or hostile environment.

In fact, life itself is survival and, as the victims of violence in Syria will confirm, all the changes is the conditions under which you live.
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The H.E.A.T mini survival kit is contained in a waterproof capsule and holds the following survival items:

  • Waterproof paper and pencil to help you write notes, to use as tinder, to indicate your travelling direction or to stave off boredom.
  • A small compass to provide you with the cardinal directions of north, east, west and south. By knowing these cardinal points, you can orientate yourself to the direction you want to travel, even if you cannot see the sun or the stars. During our H.E.A.T. course, we teach you how to use the compass, as well as bare hand navigation.
  • A whistle as the noise is better than having to shout or scream. The international distress signal is 6 blasts every minute and the response is 3 blasts in a row. Similarly, you can communicate in MORSE code using a whistle and the noise travels far at night.
  • A ferrochromium flint and steel provides you with the ability to light many fires, irrespective of the conditions. Whilst sparks generated by the ferrochromium rod will ignite many forms of natural tinder (dry leaves, belly button fluff and wood shavings, our mini survival kit also includes two tinder blocks to help you start a fire in wet or windy conditions.

The above four items enable you to light a fire for moral or heating purposes; to determine direction for travel or rescue purposes; a means of writing messages or writing a trail; and a method of alerting rescuers.

Whilst all these items can be carried in a small waterproof container, sometimes you might need a slightly larger survival kit for everyday use or travel.

Anyone venturing into a potentially hostile environment or crossing wilderness terrain in an aircraft or by vehicle should always be well prepared for any emergency situation. The next post will show you how to build a more comprehensive survival kit and demonstrate the usefulness-for-weight value for each item.

Top 6 Emergency Preparedness Myths

The biggest obstacles regarding comprehensive Emergency Operations strategies are the misconceptions and misinformation surrounding the true nature of emergency preparedness.

  1. “If something happens all I have to do is call 911.”: Help can only go so far, or be there so quickly. Your safety rests solely on your shoulders. You have to realise that, at some point, you might be on your own for a while, especially if the situation is extremely hostile. Learn to be self-reliant.
  2. “The insurance will cover everything.”: Realistically, insurance agents aren’t going to instantly rebuild and replace your losses. Also, your insurance plan might not cover some rather common terrorism or disaster related incidents.
  3. “Good preparedness is too expensive and too complicated.”: Knowing how to prepare is a life-saving skill. There are literally thousands of subtle, simple, and economical things you can do to drastically improve your emergency preparedness plan. The notion that preparedness is expensive or complicated comes from aggressively marketed, high-priced and likely unnecessary gear.
  4. “I can get free emergency preparedness information on the Internet.”: Many free sources contain really good information. However, many of them are nothing more than a rehash of “72-hour kit” ideas, and contain nothing new or comprehensive. Also, it takes time and experience to filter the mass of information. Some of these free sites have dangerous misinformation.
  5. “Nothing like that could ever happen here.”: Staying out of trouble in Africa is all about staying focused, staying alert and staying aware of the dangers that can and sometimes do become reality. The single worst thing you can do is to allow the all the good things you will encounter in Africa to lull you into a false sense of security.
  6. “In a real disaster, we’re all dead anyway.”: You can be assured of being rescued if you develop a psychology of survival based on the following three attributes:
  • Tell yourself that your home comforts are not essential to survival.
  • Tell yourself that your present discomfort will be nothing as compared to the extreme discomfort you will experience if you do nothing.
  • Remember that rather than doing nothing and dying, you can take control of the situation and live.

The H.E.A.T manual covers several topics related to survival in difficult, remote and extreme environments. Reading these chapters you will acquire survival tactics and practical knowledge that will help you to cope with unfamiliar circumstances after a natural or man-made disaster and build an emergency preparedness plan.

The manual covers a range of necessary topics and gives you the knowledge to help you return home.

Everyday Lethal Self Defence Weapons

On our heat course we teach the “five second-take –down” and techniques for disarming an attacker carrying a knife club or gun. However, although these techniques are taught during our heat course you might need to improvise a weapon or find an object that you can use in a defensive manner. Below are some of the types of everyday lethal self defence weapons you can us. Read more

Top 5 tips to survive a grenade attack

The traumatic attack on the West Gate Mall; situated in Nairobi, Kenya; ‎has the characteristics of many Al-Qaeda linked operations. Whilst responsibility for the terrorist attack has been claimed by Al-Shabaab the modus operandi fits the 3 objectives outlined by Ayman Al-Zawahiri. In a message Al-Zawahiri stated that a terrorist attack needs to be against a western target where hostages are taken and Muslim casualties are reduced to a minimum.

In the attack and subsequent hostage taking several Al-Shabaab terrorists not only killed westerners Read more

6 Ways of Knowing If You are a Target of Technical Surveillance

Often, when operating in a hostile environment the threats you might face are not simply of a physical nature sometimes, the threat of technical surveillance might be a challenge as attempts are made to monitor your activities and communications in a covert ways therefore, it is important to be able to establish if you are under surveillance and what counter measures you can adopt.

Here are six indications that you might be the target of technical surveillance Read more