US and Haiti demand release of 17 missionaries kidnapped by gang

U.S. officials have been working with Haitian authorities in an effort to obtain the release of 12 Americans and five Haitian children who were kidnapped by a notorious gang for murders, kidnappings, and extortion.

US and Haiti demand release of 17 missionaries kidnapped by gang

According to Frantz Champagne, a police inspector, the 400 Mawozo gang took the group, which controls the Croix-des-Bouquets region east of Port-au-Prince. The kidnapping took place Saturday in Ganthier, which is in the gang’s jurisdiction. It was responsible for the kidnappings of five priests, and two nuns earlier in the year.

Authorities sought to release the 16 Americans and the Canadians from Ohio-based Christian Aid Ministries. Local unions and other organizations planned to strike Monday in protest at Haiti's worsening security situation.

The Western Hemisphere's most poor nation is facing a new crisis. Gang-related kidnappings have increased since President Jovenel Moise was shot to death at his private residence July 7, and more than 2,200 people were killed by a magnitude 7.2 earthquake in August.

"Everyone is worried. They are kidnapping people from all classes," Mehu changeux, president of Haiti’s Association of Owners and Drivers, stated to Magik9 radio station.

He stated that the work stoppage would continue up until the government can guarantee safety for all.

The missionaries were kidnapped just days after U.S. officials visited Haiti. They promised more resources to Haiti's National Police, including $15 million to reduce gang violence. This year, thousands of Haitians have been forced into temporary shelters that are increasingly unsafe.

Sunday's statement by the U.S. State Department stated that it is in regular contact and will continue to work with senior Haitian officials and interagency partners.

The agency stated that "The welfare and safety of U.S citizens abroad is one of our highest priorities" in a statement.

Christian Aid Ministries stated that the kidnapped group consisted of seven women, five men, and five children, one being a 2-year old. According to the organization, they were on a visit to an orphanage when they were kidnapped.

Christian Aid Ministries released a statement saying, "Join us as we pray for those being held hostage by the kidnappers, their families, friends, and churches of those affected," "As an organisation, we pledge this situation to God and trust that he will see it through."

Christian Aid Ministries' annual report last year stated that American staffers had returned home to Haiti following a nine-month absence due to "political unrest". It also noted the "uncertainty" and "dificulties" that can arise from such instability.

A Haitian police wanted poster was issued for Wilson Joseph, the alleged leader and leader of the 400 Mawozo Gang. He faces murder, attempted murder, theft, and the hijacking or trucks transporting goods. He is known as "Lanmo Sanjou," which translates to "death doesn’t know when it’s coming".

Authorities say that ransom demands by gangs for ransoms range from just a few hundred dollars to over $1 million. Sometimes they even kill those they abduct.

According to a report by the United Nations Integrated Office Haiti, at least 328 kidnappings were reported in Haiti's first eight months of 2021. This compares with a total 234 in 2020.

As they become more powerful, gangs are accused of kidnapping children, doctors, officers, and busloads upon passengers. A man claiming to be the leader 400 Mawozo claimed that it had kidnapped five priests, two nuns, and three family members of one priest that month. Later, they were released.

Haitians are being forced to make detours to avoid gang-related violence and kidnappings. Others opt to stay in their homes, leaving less money for Charles Pierre, a Port-au-Prince moto-taxi driver who also has children to feed.

He said, "People aren't going out on the streets." "We are unable to find people to transport."

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