chapter  Chapter 20
Terrorist hostage-taking
ByMargaret Wilson
Pages 14

This chapter examines the nature of terrorist hostage-taking; its typical forms and key characteristics. It discusses the uncertainties in defining hostage-taking incidents, along with research that has practical implications for policy and practice. The chapter presents several main forms of hostage-taking and the typical stages of an incident as it unfolds. Important distinctions are made between cases that involve human hostages and other entities, and the necessity of distinguishing between terrorist and non-terrorist cases. The role of intended bargaining in 'true' hostage events is highlighted. The chapter examines the role that location, mobility, targeting and the number of hostages play in distinguishing between different types of hostage-taking incidents. It considers some areas of ambiguity in understanding hostage-taking, including the difficulty in identifying motivations and the definition of a hostage. The chapter concludes with some of the practical issues raised by current research in relation to media coverage, the granting of concessions and decisions on intervention.