Haiti gang seeks $1 million each for kidnapped US missionaries

AP
AP

Port-Au-Prince - The missionary group was returning from visiting an orphanage when they were abducted.



By AP

Published: Tue 19 Oct 2021, 10:57 PM

A gang that kidnapped 17 members of a U.S.-based missionary group is demanding $1 million ransom per person, although authorities are not clear whether that includes the five children being held, a top Haitian official told The Associated Press on Tuesday.

The official, who wasn’t authorised to speak to the press, said someone from the 400 Mawozo gang called a ministry leader shortly after kidnapping the missionaries on Saturday and demanded the ransom. A person in contact with the organisation, Christian Aid Ministries, also confirmed the $1 million per person demand, which was first reported by The Wall Street Journal. That source spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the situation.

The ages of the adults being held captive range from 18 to 48, while the children are 8 months, 3 years, 6 years, 13 years and 15 years, according to a statement from the organization on Tuesday. Sixteen of the abductees are Americans and one Canadian.

“This group of workers has been committed to minister throughout poverty-stricken Haiti,” the Ohio-based ministry said, adding that the missionaries were most recently working on a rebuilding project to help those who lost their homes in the magnitude 7.2 earthquake that struck on Aug. 14.

The group was returning from visiting an orphanage when they were abducted, the organization said.

In Washington, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Tuesday that “the FBI is a part of a coordinated U.S. government effort to get the U.S. citizens involved to safety,” with the American Embassy in Port au Prince coordinating with local officials and families of those seized.

“Kidnapping is widespread and victims regularly include US citizens. We know these groups target U.S. citizens who they assume have the resources and finances to pay ransoms, even if that is not the case,” she added, noting that the government has urged citizens not to visit Haiti.

She confirmed it is U.S. policy not to negotiate with those holding hostages, but declined to describe details of the operation.

“We are calling on authorities to take action,” said Jean-Louis Abaki, a moto taxi driver who joined the strike Monday to decry killings and kidnappings in the hemisphere’s poorest nation.

Haitian police told The Associated Press that the abduction was carried out by the 400 Mawozo gang, which has a long record of killings, kidnappings and extortion. I

Ned Price, the U.S. State Department’s spokesman, said U.S. officials have been in constant contact with Haiti’s National Police, the missionary group and the victims’ relatives.

“This is something that we have treated with the utmost priority since Saturday,” he said, adding that officials are doing “all we can to seek a quick resolution to this.”

U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the rise in gang violence has affected relief efforts in Haiti. He said the U.N. resident and humanitarian coordinator reported that “violence, looting, road blockades and the persistent presence of armed gangs all pose obstacles to humanitarian access. The situation is further complicated by very serious fuel shortages and the reduced supply of goods.”

Christian Aid Ministries said the kidnapped group included six women, six men and five children. A sign on the door at the organization’s headquarters in Berlin, Ohio, said it was closed due to the kidnapping situation.

Among those kidnapped were four children and one of their parents from a Michigan family, their pastor told The Detroit News. The youngest from the family is under 10, said minister Ron Marks, who declined to identify them. They arrived in Haiti earlier this month, he said.


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