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Hostage Taking: Determinants of Terrorist Logistical and Negotiation Success


  • Khusrav Gaibulloev

    (Department of Economics, University of Texas at Dallas)

  • Todd Sandler

    (Department of Economics, University of Texas at Dallas,


This article investigates the determinants of logistical and negotiation success from the terrorists’ viewpoint in hostage-taking missions. Logistical success indicates that the terrorists apparently completed the mission as planned, while negotiation success means that the terrorists received some of their initial demands. In the empirical analysis, the article utilizes a new dataset on hostage incidents from 1978 through 2005 for the logit regressions. Empirical results broadly support the authors’ theoretical predictions. Logistical success depends positively on terrorist resources and target vulnerability, while negotiation success increases with the relative disagreement values and relative bargaining strengths of the terrorists. More specifically, terrorist success at the execution stage depends positively on kidnappings and large hostage grabs and varies negatively with attack force diversity and terrorist casualties. Negotiation success depends on bargaining variables (i.e. the number of hostages, casualties, incident duration, and other proxies). The article shows that the factors that determine terrorist negotiation success differ between kidnappings and non-kidnappings (i.e. skyjackings, the takeover of buildings, and the hijacking of non-aerial means of transport), owing to location and other considerations (e.g. types of demands). In particular, making multiple demands bolsters negotiated success in non-kidnappings, while demanding money fosters negotiated success in kidnappings. Lengthier incidents have a positive influence on the likelihood of terrorists gaining concessions in kidnappings and non-kidnappings.

Suggested Citation

  • Khusrav Gaibulloev & Todd Sandler, 2009. "Hostage Taking: Determinants of Terrorist Logistical and Negotiation Success," Journal of Peace Research, Peace Research Institute Oslo, vol. 46(6), pages 739-756, November.
  • Handle: RePEc:sae:joupea:v:46:y:2009:i:6:p:739-756

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    Cited by:

    1. Brandt, Patrick T. & George, Justin & Sandler, Todd, 2016. "Why concessions should not be made to terrorist kidnappers," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 44(C), pages 41-52.
    2. Shortland, Anja & Vothknecht, Marc, 2011. "Combating “maritime terrorism” off the coast of Somalia," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 27(S1), pages 133-151.
    3. Charlinda Santifort & Todd Sandler, 2013. "Terrorist success in hostage-taking missions: 1978–2010," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 156(1), pages 125-137, July.
    4. Olaf J. de Groot & Matthew D. Rablen & Anja Shortland, 2012. "Barrgh-gaining with Somali Pirates," Economics of Security Working Paper Series 74, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research.
    5. M. Vannini & B. McCannon & C. Detotto, 2012. "Understanding Ransom Kidnapping and Its Duration," Working Paper CRENoS 201219, Centre for North South Economic Research, University of Cagliari and Sassari, Sardinia.

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