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A hostage is a person held prisoner to force fulfillment of demands by an individual or group. The taking of hostages is considered illegal under both international law and individual nations. The actual act is a crime, and the mistreatment of hostages is another, independent crime.

Hostage-Taking Situations

Most hostage-taking situations occur in connection with other crimes or as a result of political struggles. They may result from the intentional act of taking a specific person or group of persons because of who they represent, or as a result of a spontaneous decision. Many domestic criminals take hostages because they believe it gives them something to bargain with in exchange for their freedom.

Hijackers and other terrorists usually take hostages to demand a certain action by a government. ...

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