Middle East Studies

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Islamic Terror Abductions in the Middle East


Shaul Shay is a senior research fellow of the International Policy Institute for Counter Terrorism. He is the author of The Shahids, Islam and the Suicide Attacks; The “Axis of Evil”: Iran, Hizballah and Palestinian Terror; The Terror Triangle of the Red Sea: Yemen, Sudan and Somalia; and (with Yoram Scheweitzer) of The Globalization of Terror: the challenge of Al Qaida and the response of the international community

This book investigates abductions, hostage taking, beheadings, and global jihad influences in four theatres in the Middle East over the last 25 years (1980–2005): Israel (as a part of the Israeli–Palestinian conflict), Lebanon, Yemen and Iraq. It includes discussion of the William Buckley, William Higgins and “Irangate” abductions. The “Nachshon Waxman” affair – the Israeli soldier abducted and murdered by HAMAS in 1994 – is presented as a case study in understanding the four major phases of an abduction – preparation and planning; carrying out the abduction; negotiations; and the rescue attempt.

Terrorist organizations use abduction as a tool for promotion of their and their patrons’ interests. Examination of Middle East abductions, and the relations/correlations between Islamic terrorist organizations and Iran, demonstrates Iran’s role as a terror supporting state, and the promotion of Iranian interests by its terrorist surrogates.

The research examines the challenge posed by terrorist organizations for countries whose citizens have been abducted and the answers to that challenge, and provides theoretical classifications of the terror phenomenon in general and abductions/ beheadings in particular.

Hardback ISBN: 978-1-84519-167-2
Hardback Price: £55.00 / $67.50
Release Date: January 2007
Paperback ISBN: 978-1-84519-736-0
Paperback Price: £25.00 / $34.95
Release Date: January 2007
Page Extent / Format: 978-1-84519-736-0
Illustrated: No



1 Terror and Abductions – Western Vulnerability and Dilemma
Defining Terror
Defining Abduction
Abductions – An "Act of War" or a "Criminal Act"
State Intervention in Abduction and Bargaining Incidents

2 Abductions in the Palestinian Arena and the Nachshon Wachsman Affair
Abductions and Bargaining Incidents in the Israeli– Palestinian Confrontation
The Hamas Movement – Ideological/Operational Characteristics
Abductions and Attempted Abductions by the Hamas
The Abduction and Killing of Nachshon Wachsman
The Main Characteristics of Hamas Abductions

3 The Hizballah and Abductions in the Lebanese Arena
Iran and its Use of Terror
Exporting the Iranian Revolution
Iranian Intelligence and Terror Agencies
The Iranian Terror System
The Hizballah Organization
Links between Iran and the Hamas
Hizballah Abductions against Israel
Israel's Policy Regarding Captives and Hostages
Summary: Responding to the Challenges of Negotiation, Leverage, and Intelligence

4 The Abduction of Foreign Hostages in Lebanon
Imad Muraniya and the Attack Mechanism
The Kidnapping of Foreign Nationals

5 Abductions in the Iraqi Arena
Hostage-Taking and Decapitations, 2003–2005
The Islamic Tradition of Decapitation
Justification through Religious Doctrine

6 Abductions in Yemen
Yemen and Islamic Terror
The Abduction of Foreign Residents
The Arrest of the "British" Terror Network in Yemen (December 23, 1998)

7 The Confrontation Arenas, Western Governments' Policy, and Crimes Against Humanity by Offending States and Organizations
The Israeli–Palestinian Confrontation Arena
The Lebanese Arena
The Iraqi Arena
Points of Emphasis and Lessons to be Drawn

Epilogue: Abduction of Israeli Soldiers and Civilians (June and July 2006)
The Hamas Government, Abu Mazen and Kidnapping
Abductions by Hizballah in the Zar'it Sector
Conclusions: Different Patterns of Terror Events and Changes in Israel's Response

A: Interview with Chief of Staff Ehud Barak following the IDF operation to rescue Nachshon Wachsman
B: Interview with senior Hamas leader Mahmoud a Zahar 169
C: Al Qaida claims responsibility for the murder of the Egyptian Ambassador in Iraq


Shay discusses contending definitions of abductions – ‘acts of war’ as opposed to ‘criminal acts’ – the role of the state as target or instigator/perpetrator, and the politics of terror abductions in Lebanon, Iraq, and Yemen. The author devotes considerable space to bargaining for the release of abductees, to the intrusive role of Iran on behalf of Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Palestine, and, as he must, to the fate of abductees, including the spate of decapitations from 2003 to 2005. This is, in sum, a well-researched, clearly argued, and useful addition to the terrorism literature, particularly given the focus on abductions as an instrument of Islamic terrorism. Though the discussion is comprehensive, it might have helped to place the data and analysis against the larger background of terror kidnappings elsewhere in the world. The world of political terror abductions keeps growing, and this book is an excellent introduction. Highly recommended.

Shaul Shay brings his experience as a senior research fellow at the International Policy Institute for Counter Terrorism to the components of abductions… He focuses on Iran, giving a chronology of its involvement with terrorist forces. Iran supports the development of terrorists’ organizations with financial, political and military aid. Shay’s investigation reveals the historical commitment Iran has to terrorist organizations. In 1991, the “Conference for the Support of the Palestinian Jihad” was hosted in Teheran, and attended by representatives of Hamas, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hizballa. These organizations aligned themselves in opposition to the peace process with Israel. This book is complete with specific details on abductions that strive to give the process a human face … What is clear is that complex terrorist abductions have become a threat to world peace. Tensions can be linked to terrorist abductions and stretch across borders and into homes beyond the Middle East. People remain missing to this day.
Digest of Middle East Studies

The author describes Islamic terror abductions in the Israeli-Palestinian arena, Lebanon, Yemen, and Iraq between 1980 and 2005 by Hamas, Hezbollah, and other terrorists. He focuses on abductions of an individual or individuals for bargaining purposes, including the Nachshon Wachsman Affair, the abduction of William Buckley and William Higgins, the Irangate Affair, and the abduction of western hostages, and the involvement of Islamic terror organizations in these attacks, the relationship among organizations, and the links between them and Iran as a state that supports and promotes terror.

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