Gang with past kidnappings accused of kidnapping 17 missionaries in Haiti
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – A group of 17 American missionaries, including children, were kidnapped by a gang in Haiti on Saturday, according to a voicemail message sent to various religious missions by an organization with direct knowledge of the incident.
The missionaries were returning home after building an orphanage, according to a message from Ohio-based Christian Aid Ministries.
“This is a special prayer alert,” the one-minute post said. “Pray that the gang members will repent.”
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The message indicates that the field director of the mission is working with the United States Embassy, and that the family of the field director and another unidentified man remained at the ministry base while everyone else visiting. ‘orphanage have been removed.
A spokesperson for the US State Department said 16 of the missionaries were US citizens and the kidnapping occurred in the metropolitan area of Port-au-Prince, the country’s capital.
“We have been in regular contact with the Haitian high authorities and will continue to work with them and inter-agency partners,” said the spokesperson.
The group is made up of five men, seven women and five children, Christian Aid Ministries announced on Sunday. One of the missionaries is a Canadian citizen, the group said.
“Join us in praying for those taken hostage, the kidnappers and the families, friends and churches of those affected. Pray for those who seek God’s direction and make decisions about it, ”the group said in a statement. .
The 400 Mawozo gang kidnapped the group – which also included elderly people – in Ganthier, a commune east of the capital Port-au-Prince, Haitian police inspector Frantz Champagne told The Associated Press.
The gang has also been accused of kidnapping five priests and two nuns earlier this year in Haiti.
The gang, whose name translates roughly to 400 “inexperienced men,” controls the Croix-des-Bouquets area which includes Ganthier, where they carry out kidnappings and carjackings and extort business owners , according to the authorities.
Haiti is again grappling with a spike in gang-related kidnappings that declined after President Jovenel Moïse was fatally shot in his private residence on July 7 and following a magnitude 7 earthquake, 2 which struck southwestern Haiti in August and killed more than 2,200 people. .
The gangs have demanded ransoms ranging from a few hundred dollars to over a million dollars, according to authorities.
Last month, a deacon was killed outside a church in the capital Port-au-Prince and his wife kidnapped, one of dozens who have been kidnapped in recent months.
“My dear I will tell you sincerely regarding security we can not talk about it. About security, I can say [it has] summer zero, “said Eugenio Gué, a resident of Port-au-Prince, on Sunday.
Charles Pierre, a city motorcycle taxi driver, said the kidnappings were having widespread effects on the local economy.
“People don’t go out on the streets. We can’t find people to transport,” he said, saying it is difficult to take responsibility for his family.
At least 328 abduction victims were reported to the Haitian National Police in the first eight months of 2021, up from a total of 234 for all of 2020, according to a report released last month by the Integrated Bureau of United Nations in Haiti known as BINUH.
Gangs have been accused of kidnapping schoolchildren, doctors, police officers, buses full of passengers and others as they become more powerful.
“Political unrest, increased gang violence, deteriorating socio-economic conditions – including food insecurity and malnutrition – all contribute to the worsening humanitarian situation,” BINUH said in its report. . “An overburdened and underfunded police force alone cannot solve Haiti’s security problems. “
On Friday, the UN Security Council unanimously voted to extend the UN political mission in Haiti.
The kidnapping of the missionaries comes just days after high-level US officials visited Haiti and pledged more resources for Haiti’s national police, including an additional $ 15 million to help reduce gang violence , which this year displaced thousands of Haitians who are now living in temporary shelters under increasingly unsanitary conditions.
Among those who met Haiti’s police chief was Uzra Zeya, US Under Secretary of State for Civil Security, Democracy and Human Rights.
“The dismantling of violent gangs is vital for Haitian stability and the security of citizens,” she recently tweeted.