From eight-year-old schoolgirls to wealthy businessmen, people of all classes and professions are being kidnapped. A huge ransom is being demanded after the kidnapping. Such barbaric images are gradually increasing in South Africa. Even after being kidnapped, someone is being killed.

During the festive season, police urged parents to be vigilant around beaches and shopping malls, news agency AFP reported. Because such places are potential hotspots for child abduction.

‘They should take extra care of the children,’ said Robert Netshunda, a police spokesman in the country’s south-eastern province of KwaZulu-Natal. Children go missing and the crime of kidnapping is a reality.’

South Africa has long been plagued by violent crime and is often described as one of the most dangerous countries in the world outside of war-torn regions. But kidnapping for ransom or extortion is a ‘relatively new’ crime, said Jean-Pierre Smith, security councilor for the Municipality of Cape Town.

According to the non-profit organization Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime, the phenomenon began to rise in 2016 and is now growing at an alarming rate. The police registered more than 4 thousand cases between July and September. This number has doubled compared to the same period last year.

Anti-crime activist Youssef Abramji told AFP the number of kidnappings today was the highest in South Africa’s history. It has become an established and profitable criminal practice.

Most kidnappings in South Africa are the result of carjackings, robberies and rapes but crime experts say an increasing number of victims are now being identified directly.

Police described the children as being abducted in a Hollywood movie style. In such cases, ransom demands can range up to millions of rands (tens of thousands of dollars). The ransom is often demanded to be paid in bitcoins or into foreign bank accounts through the Dubai Money Exchange. In some cases the victim is even killed after emptying his bank account.

Analysts say the kidnappings are fueled by local ties to suspected foreign crime groups from Mozambique and Pakistan and other countries. Indian businessmen, Pakistanis, Somalis and Ethiopians are increasingly victims of such campaigns.

Indian-origin Muslim families, who are rumored to have large funds abroad, are particularly at risk, police sources said. The police formed a special unit last year and officials said recently, they are involved in “several syndicates” responsible for kidnapping for ransom.

(Dhaka Times / 28 December / SAT)