Unspeakable Times
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19 Famous People Who Were Held Hostage

Updated June 14, 2019 11.1k views19 items

This list features information on famous hostages, loosely ranked by fame and notoriety. Over the years, many journalists, photographers, missionaries and politicians have been kidnapped. Some of these individuals were kidnapped for ransom, while others were kidnapped in order to make prisoner trades. Sadly, many people were killed after being held hostage.

Who is the most well-known person that appears on this famous hostage list? Jill Carroll is in the running. She was a reporter for the Christian Science Monitor working in Iraq when she was kidnapped in 2006. Her interpreter was killed during the kidnapping. After for months in captivity, she was released, but not before the kidnappers demanded that she make a video praising her captors and attacking the United States.

On Aug. 19, 2014, journalist James Foley was beheaded by ISIS members after being kidnapped in 2012. "I wish I had more time. I wish I could have the hope for freedom to see my family once again," he said in a recorded video of the incident. Other famous hostages include Tyler Hicks, Mellissa Sung, and Richard Engel.
  • Jill Carroll was a reporter for the Christian Science Monitor working in Iraq when she was kidnapped in 2006. Her interpreter was killed during the kidnapping. She was eventually released after almost four months in captivity. Before releasing her, the kidnappers demanded that she make a video praising her captors and attacking the United States.
  • Richard Engel
    Photo: Metaweb / CC-BY
    In 2012, Richard Engel and four crew members were kidnapped in Syria while working for NBC. They were psychologically tortured during the ordeal and were released after five days. NBC originally reported that a Shia group were responsible for the kidnapping, but they stated that it was more likely a Sunni faction when they revised the story in 2015.
  • On August 23, 2008, Amanda Lindhout and members of her team were kidnapped by insurgents from the Hizbul Islam fundamentalist group in Somalia while on a journalism assignment. She was raped and tortured repeatedly throughout the 15-month ordeal. She was released on November 25, 2009 after her family and the family of her photographer Nigel Brennan paid their ransom.

    She now works as a philanthropist and author.
  • Mellissa Fung
    Photo: flickr / CC0
    Mellissa Fung was on a journalism assignment in Afghanistan when she was kidnapped by members of the Hizb-e-Islami group in 2008. She was released after almost a month of negotiations. There was no ransom paid and she was reportedly freed in a prisoner exchange deal.