Group of 17 US missionaries and family members kidnapped in Haiti

Group of 17 US missionaries and family members kidnapped in Haiti

haiti,Ohio-based Christian Aid Ministries, Ganthier, Boen crossroads,La Tremblay 17,BINUH,harbouchanews

Children were among those abducted by gang members on their way home from an orphanage

A group of 17 US missionaries, including children, have been kidnapped by an armed criminal gang in Haiti.

The missionaries were on their way home from building an orphanage, according to a statement from the Ohio-based Christian Aid Ministries, which sent out a message asking supporters to pray for its members.

The statement said the mission’s field director was working with the US embassy, and that the field director’s family and one other unidentified man had stayed at the mission’s base while everyone else visited the orphanage.

The kidnapping occurred between 8am and 10am on Saturday morning while some of the missionaries were travelling to Port-au-Prince’s Toussaint Louverture airport to return home to the US.

According to the Washington Post, one of the abducted Americans managed to send a message on WhatsApp calling for help as the kidnapping took place. “Please pray for us!! We are being held hostage, they kidnapped our driver. Pray pray pray. We don’t know where they are taking us.”

The kidnapped Americans, some of whom were on their first visit to Haiti, were reportedly returning on Route 8 from the area of Ganthier, outside the capital, when they were stopped by heavily armed men who had set up road blocks near the Boen crossroads and in La Tremblay 17.

According to local media reports, the armed gang kidnapped the occupants of a number of vehicles, including the Americans. Other reports said that during the kidnapping, a patrol of the Brigade for the Fight Against Drug Trafficking exchanged fire with one of the vehicles used by the kidnappers, during which one police officer was shot and killed.

The area in which the Americans were seized is the territory of the 400 Mawozo criminal gang, which has been blamed for previous kidnappings earlier this year including those of a priest and a French nun.

A US government spokesperson said they were aware of the reports about the kidnapping. “The welfare and safety of US citizens abroad is one of the highest priorities of the Department of State,” the spokesperson said, declining to comment further.

Haiti has been struggling with a sharp increase in gang-related kidnappings that had diminished after the president, Jovenel Moise, was fatally shot at his private residence on 7 July, and after a 7.2-magnitude earthquake struck south-west Haiti in August and killed more than 2,200 people.

Gangs have demanded ransoms ranging from a couple of hundred dollars to more than $1m, according to authorities.

Last month a deacon was killed in front of a church in Port-au-Prince and his wife kidnapped, one of dozens of people who have been abducted in recent months.

At least 328 kidnapping victims were reported to Haiti’s police in the first eight months of 2021, compared with a total of 234 for all of 2020, according to a report issued last month by the United Nations Integrated Office in Haiti, known as BINUH.

Gangs have been accused of kidnapping schoolchildren, doctors, police officers, busloads of passengers and others. In April, one gang kidnapped five priests and two nuns, a move that prompted a protest similar to the one organised for this Monday to decry the impoverished country’s lack of security.

“Political turmoil, the surge in gang violence, deteriorating socioeconomic conditions, including food insecurity and malnutrition, all contribute to the worsening of the humanitarian situation,” BINUH said in its report. “An overstretched and under-resourced police force alone cannot address the security ills of Haiti.”

The kidnapping of the missionaries comes just days after high-level US officials visited Haiti and promised more resources for the country’s police force, including another $15m (£11m) to help reduce gang violence, which this year has displaced thousands of Haitians who now live in temporary shelters in increasingly unhygienic conditions.

Among those who met with Haiti’s police chief was Uzra Zeya, the US undersecretary of state for civilian security, democracy, and human rights. “Dismantling violent gangs is vital to Haitian stability and citizen security,” she recently tweeted.

the guardian

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