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Probability of Hostage Fatality in Hostage-Taking Terrorism: Negotiation Option and Characteristics of Negotiators (From Understanding and Responding to the Terrorism Phenomenon: A Multi-Dimensional Perspective, P 180-194, 2007, Ozgur Nikbay and Suleyman Hancerli, eds. -- See NCJ-225118)

NCJ Number
Murat Kocak
Date Published
15 pages
Using a logit model with empirical data, this study estimated the probability of hostages held by terrorists being killed under three response options: negotiation, shootout, and massive search operations to find where kidnapped hostages are being held.
The study found that the probability of hostages being killed is 31 percent when authorities mount a shootout with terrorists, controlling for incident days and number of hostages. Contrary to the high risk of pursuing the shootout option and any effort to locate where kidnapped hostages are being held for the purpose of a rescue, the negotiation option was found to reduce the probability of hostages being killed to only 1 percent; however, the probability of hostages being killed increased to 34 percent when the number of negotiators increased to seven. The probability is only 3 percent when there are only two negotiators. The author cautions, however, that the predictions for high numbers of negotiators may not be reliable given the data limitations. Given the large number of missing values in many variables in this study, additional research is required. The study focused on the characteristics of negotiators and attempted to estimate the probability of hostages being killed when the number of negotiators increased, controlling for the duration and the size of the incident, the number of governments and entities involved, terrorists’ demands and behaviors, and the effect of having nongovernmental targets when ransom is demanded by terrorists. Data were compiled under the International Terrorism: Attributes of Terrorist Events (ITERATE) Project. The project’s purpose was to “quantify data on the characteristics of transnational terrorist groups, their activities that have international impact, and the environment in which they operate.” The current study focused on data related to transnational terrorist hostage-taking incidents between 1978 and 1991. 5 tables, 10 references, and 1 appendix


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