Contrary to public perception, the vast majority of people kidnapped are local nationals taken in their home country. For example, Mexicans kidnapped in Mexico or Nigerians kidnapped in Nigeria. Many of these people are from families whose perceived wealth, employment or social status are deemed by the kidnappers to make them high-value assets in a ransom negotiation.
People who are taken hostage outside of their home country form a small proportion of overall hostages although their cases receive more media coverage. While local nationals are most frequently targeted, foreign nationals are often the preferred target of militants and terrorist groups who are looking to use kidnapping to attract national or international attention or as part of an ideologically driven battle. Foreign nationals may also be targeted by criminal gangs for whom the notion of a higher ransom is worth the additional risks and hassle of abducting a foreigner and keeping them undetected. Countries where foreign nationals have a higher risk of being abducted, include Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, the Philippines and Somalia as well as Nigeria.
There are many different kinds of people who find themselves taken hostage whilst away from their home country. Some are business people on work assignments abroad– they might be engineers in the oil and gas industry working in Iraq or accountants conducting an audit of their clients in Mexico or Pakistan. Some are journalists and aid workers, operating in some of the more dangerous parts of the world, like Syria, Yemen or Mali. Others are tourists who find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time, in countries like Kenya or the DRC. Still, others may be dual nationals who have gone to, for example, Nigeria to visit relatives and have been targeted because the kidnappers identify them as being wealthy or as having wealthy family connections in their country of residence (e.g. the UK).