Prisoners and politics: Western hostage taking by militant groups

Contributing USMA Research Unit(s)

Combating Terrorism Center, Social Sciences

Document Type


Publication Date

Fall 11-17-2017


Hostage taking of Westerners by militant groups has increased since 9/11. Despite this rising problem, there has been little academic research on how a hostage’s individual characteristics influence the outcome of the incident. Using a newly collected dataset of over 1,000 individuals taken hostage in incidents involving terrorist groups since 2001, this article evaluates how individual, national, and group characteristics influence the likelihood that hostage incidents end with the release or execution of the hostage. The findings show that a hostage’s nationality and occupation are significant individual-level drivers of outcomes, while the nature of the militant group itself also matters.

USMA Center/Institute Affiliation

Combating Terrorism Center

First Page


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