15 Americans Still Held Hostage Abroad or Missing

Monday, June 16, 2014
Linda Boyle and Lyn Coleman, mothers of Joshua Boyle and Caitlan Coleman (AP Photo)

Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl is back on American soil, but he was far from the only U.S. citizen being held in a foreign land. At least 15 other Americans have been kidnapped, jailed on questionable charges or are missing in other countries.


  • Caitlan Coleman was taken hostage in October 2012 by the Taliban with her husband, Canadian Joshua Boyle, while they were traveling through Afghanistan. Coleman was pregnant at the time and gave birth while in captivity. Boyle’s ex-wife, Zaynab Khadr, is the sister of the only Canadian to be held at Guantánamo Bay, Omar Khadr, who was transferred to Canadian custody in 2012.
  • Former Federal Bureau of Investigation agent Robert Levinson went missing in March 2007 while on Iran’s Kish Island. It was later found that Levinson was acting as a Central Intellegence Agency contractor when he disappeared. His family received a video of him in 2010. He’s the longest-held American hostage.
  • Warren Weinstein, a development expert employed by a U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) contractor, was pistol-whipped and taken from his home in Lahore, Pakistan in 2011.
  • Alan Gross was thrown in jail in Cuba in 2009 for “acts against the independence or territorial integrity of the Cuban state.” Gross, now 65, was working for a USAID contractor working to improve internet access for Cuba’s Jewish community.
  • Korean-American Kenneth Bae was sent to a North Korean labor camp in 2012 while leading a tour group through the country. He was charged with attempting to overthrow the state.
  • Journalist James Foley was taken off a street in Syria in November 2012.
  • Austin Tice, a freelance journalist, was kidnapped in Syria in August 2012.
  • Jeffrey Ake, a water bottling contractor, disappeared in April 2005. Kidnappers originally demanded a $2 million ransom, but after three weeks cut off negotiations. Ake hasn’t been heard from since.
  • Journalist Michael Scott Moore was taken from an airport in Somalia by gunman in January 2012.
  • Luke Somers, a photojournalist, was kidnapped in Sana’a, Yemen in September 2013.
  • Saeed Abedini, who had been setting up Christian churches in Iran for a decade, was arrested in 2012 on charges related to his religious beliefs.
  • Former U.S. Marine Amir Hekmati was arrested in Iran in 2011 and was later shown on Iranian television confessing to being a spy for the CIA. Hekmati had traveled to the country to visit his grandmother. Hekmati, who was born in Arizona, was originally sentenced to death but that sentence was overturned.
  • In May 2013, former Marine Armando Torres III was kidnapped in La Barranca, Tamaulipas, Mexico as he traveled to visit his father’s ranch.
  • Jeffrey Fowle was arrested earlier this month in North Korea for acts “contrary to the purpose of tourism.”

-Steve Straehley


To Learn More:

Bergdahl Freed, What About Other Americans Held Abroad? (by Lee Ferran, Alexander Tucciarone and Stephanie Lopez, ABC News)

After Bergdahl’s Release, What About Other Americans Held Captive? (by Jethro Mullen, CNN)

Missing North American couple in ‘Taliban’ video (BBC News)

Dismay at Failure of Swap to Rescue More Hostages (by Michael S. Schmidt, New York Times)

North Korea Says It Is Holding American Tourist For Unspecified Violations (by Chico Harlan, Washington Post)

American Missing in Iran was on CIA Mission (by Noel Brinkerhoff and Matt Bewig, AllGov)

France Passes U.S. as Western Nation with most Hostages being Held (by David Wallechinsky and Violaine Badie, AllGov)

American Stuck in Cuban Prison Sues U.S. Government (by David Wallechinsky and Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


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