GSA Connects 2021 in Portland, Oregon

Paper No. 220-4
Presentation Time: 9:00 AM-1:00 PM


KREKELER, Mark, Department of Geology and Environmental Earth Science, Miami University, 250 S. Patterson Avenue, Oxford, OH 45056, LOERTSCHER, Cynthia, James W. Foley Foundation, 200 MARCY STREET, SUITE 102, PORTSMOUTH, NH 03801 and LOERTSCHER, Seth, Combatting Terrorism Center, United States Military Academy, 606 Thayer Rd,, West Point, NY 10996

The Sahel region of Africa is currently experiencing an expansion of terrorist activity from extremist groups. Among the five nations that make up the Sahel region (Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger) jihadis militants are waging active insurgencies in three (Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger). While these groups employ a variety of tactics and attacks to achieve their aims, one of the most impactful is the use of kidnapping and hostage-taking. Terrorist groups kidnap Westerners and influential local nationals, seeking to leverage their releases for the release of jihadist prisoners and the payment of ransoms, both of which strengthen the groups and continue the insurgencies. While Western countries have developed exceptionally effective hostage recovery capabilities within their special operations forces, the vast geography of the Sahel creates significant difficulties for Western nations seeking to locate and rescue their citizens. For instance, while the average Westerner kidnapped in Nigeria was held for 23 days, those kidnapped in the Sahel remained in captivity, on average, for 219 days. Recently a hyperspectral tool for identification of human materials has been developed which can support the identification of hostages, enemy combatants, and associated materials. Topics in the tool include human blood on geologic substrates, human skin, hair and clothing, fuels, and a wide range of geological and other materials. Data for additional items such as plastics and cosmetics has been collected and can be added to the tool. Hyperspectral remote sensing imaging can be useful for characterizing scenes of abduction, holding areas, sites of violence, and numerous other relevant settings. A review of the literature indicates that a wealth of knowledge exists regarding general remote sensing of the Sahel and thus hyperspectral remote sensing may potentially be more widely utilized in hostage recovery in the Sahel region than previously utilized in past regions held by extremists. Combined with extensive mineralogical and geochemical data in the hyperspectral tool, it may provide new forensic insight into physical evidence related to kidnapping and hostage-taking cases in the Sahel as well.