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A hostage is an innocent person held captive, while the captors seek to gain an advantage from releasing the captive, or to derive a benefit by not killing or harming the captive.

Hostages are today most frequently associated with criminal kidnapping for financial gain, and terrorist kidnapping for political gain. There have been very many cases where terrorists have kidnapped innocent people, and demanded money, escape to a safe place, or the release of imprisoned colleagues as the price of release. Hijacking of airliners is a form of hostage-taking. Holding hostages can also be a way of intimidating or punishing an entire community. During the Second World War the Germans would arrest and imprison hostages in occupied countries; if resistance fighters killed a German soldier, a predetermined number of hostages would be killed.