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Sunday, August 15, 1999 Published at 12:12 GMT 13:12 UK


How to avoid being kidnapped abroad

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The past few weeks have seen foreigners kidnapped in Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone and others killed in the Yemen, Chechnya and Uganda. So what parts of the world are safe and who is most at risk? BBC Radio 5Live quizzed Charles Heyman, editor of Jane's World Armies and Jane's Police & Security magazines.

Who is most at risk on the road?

Charles Heyman: Travellers should use common sense
There are really four groups at risk here. The first is the people who have to be there - the police, the soldiers the diplomats, whose job it is to be on the ground.

The second are the people who chose to work there - the NGOs [non-governmental organisations, such as Amnesty International], the agencies, the oil workers, teachers and so on.

Then we've got the third group which is really the majority of holidaymakers - backpackers in particular, who just stumble across these places without realising the danger there is.

And the fourth group is the astonishing group of 'adventure travellers', who put themselves in harm's way for a holiday.

Which are the most dangerous parts of the world?

It's difficult to say which is the most dangerous. Ten years ago it was the Lebanon, but probably right at this moment it's West Africa. But there are lots of other places, such as Kashmir and the Yemen, Uganda, Chechnya and Dagestan - only a lunatic would go there. South America, Columbia and in the last Peru, are also terribly dangerous places for people to go to.

Do Britons make particularly attractive targets for kidnappers?

This is debatable. At the moment the most attractive targets are probably the Americans, particularly for political kidnappings. But the majority of kidnappers are just opportunists after money.

What can you do to stop yourself from getting kidnapped if you are a traveller and you like going to exotic and unusual parts of the world?

The first thing to do is to use your common sense. There are certain places where it would be foolish, even idiotic to go there. Not only do you put yourself at risk but also the people who've got to get you out.

But if you do like going to exotic places there are lots of ways you should find out more about the local political situation about the country you want to go to, either through the Foreign Office or the Internet.

One of the terrible things you see is backpackers with Lonely Planet Guides which are 10 years out of date. They are superb publications, but you need to make sure you have the most recent guide to tell you what's going on in the country concerned.

If you wander down a dusty road and you come across a man with a kalashnikov, what's the best thing to do?

Don't make a noise, don't frighten or pester him. The only thing you can do is hope someone has seen him and knows where you've been taken, so someone can try and rescue you. But it doesn't take a lot of common sense to avoid those situations.

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