But the demand does shine a light on two uncomfortable facts about “Kidnap & Ransom,” or K&R, the dark netherworld of professionals who work to negotiate between murderous groups like ISIS and the terrified families whose loved ones have been kidnapped. It also includes their worried employers and Western governments such as France that will pay ransoms, and other governments, notably the United States and the United Kingdom, that will not.
The first uncomfortable fact is that if you pay a ransom a hostage is more likely to be released. The other is that every time a ransom is paid it increases the chance that other hostages will be taken to help fill the coffers of a terrorist group.
According to an investigation by The New York Times, al Qaeda and its affiliates have netted at least $125 million in ransoms since 2008. That finding is similar to a 2012 U.S. Treasury estimate that $120 million had been paid to terrorist organizations during the previous eight years.
Much of this revenue reportedly comes from France. French media reported that the government had paid 20 million euros (about $28 million) for the release of four employees of a French nuclear firm. They were held by an al Qaeda affiliate for three years in northern Niger and were released last year.