Armed gang in Haiti accused of kidnapping Canadian citizen, 16 Americans – .

Armed gang in Haiti accused of kidnapping Canadian citizen, 16 Americans – .

Children stand in the courtyard of the Maison La Providence de Dieu orphanage in Ganthier, Croix-des-Bouquets, Haiti, on October 17, 2021, where a gang kidnapped 17 missionaries from a United States-based organization.

Odelyn Joseph/The Associated Press

A Canadian is among a group of 17 missionaries and their families kidnapped in Haiti on Saturday amid a wave of similar crimes in the Caribbean country.

Christian Aid Ministries said 16 Americans and a Canadian associated with the association were kidnapped near Ganthier, east of Port-au-Prince, as they returned from visiting an orphanage. The group – seven women, five men and five children – were heading towards the association’s base in Titanyen, 40 kilometers away.

“Join us in praying for those held hostage, the kidnappers and the families, friends and churches of those affected,” said Christian Aid Ministries, a charity affiliated with Amish and Mennonite groups, in a released statement. on its website.

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Haitian police blamed 400 Mawozo, a gang that has already committed brazen mass kidnappings and controls the arrondissement of Croix-des-Bouquets, which includes Ganthier. Le Nouvelliste newspaper in Port-au-Prince reported that a group of heavily armed men barricaded a road in the area and abducted several vehicles full of people.

The reaction of the Canadian or American governments was not immediately clear.

“Global Affairs Canada is aware of media reports that a Canadian citizen has been kidnapped in Haiti. Canadian government officials in Haiti are working with local authorities and NGOs involved to gather more information, ”Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lama Khodr wrote on Sunday.

The US State Department confirmed that 17 people, including 16 US citizens, were abducted near Port-au-Prince, but did not release any further information.

Ryan Martin, a member of staff at Christian Aid Ministries’ Canadian office in Moorefield, Ont., Said the group would limit the information it released about the kidnapping “in the best interests of the safety of those involved.” The headquarters of Christian Aid Ministries in Berlin, Ohio, did not respond to the messages.

An update on the charity’s website earlier this month touted its school program in Haiti as a way to “influence the children of Haiti” to “convert.” The group’s 2020 annual report says Christian aid ministries left Haiti for nine months that year due to “political unrest.”

The Washington Post quoted a message, written by one of the abductees, posted on a WhatsApp group during the incident. “Please pray for us !! We are held hostage, they kidnapped our driver. Pray pray pray. We don’t know where they are taking us, ”the newspaper said quoting the message.

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Kidnappings for ransom are increasingly common in Haiti, where gangs often control entire neighborhoods and important access roads.

According to consultancy firm Control Risk, which maintains a global kidnapping database, Haiti accounted for 10% of all kidnappings in the Americas in the first three months of 2021, although it only accounts for 1% of kidnappings in the Americas. the population of the hemisphere. So far this year, the Center for Analysis and Research on Human Rights, a Haitian NGO, has recorded more than 600 kidnappings in the country, nearly triple its total compared to the year. former.

In the past year, gangs have kidnapped police officers, entire school buses and, in at least one case which was broadcast live on Facebook, a pastor and a church choir in the middle of a service. During a kidnapping in April, 400 Mawozo seized five priests and two nuns, including two French. They were then released.

The most recent kidnapping comes amid a long political crisis, including the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse in July. Presidential and legislative elections were scheduled for November 7, but last month Prime Minister Ariel Henry indefinitely postponed the vote and sacked the country’s electoral council.

The Haitian government has asked the United States to send troops to the country following the murder of Mr. Moïse. President Joe Biden denied the request.

Mr. Henry and the Haitian police chief, Léon Charles, were forced to withdraw from a ceremony in honor of Jean-Jacques Dessalines, one of the country’s independence leaders. When they tried to lead a delegation to the Dessalines monument in the Pont-Rouge district of Port-au-Prince, they came under gunfire from armed men blocking their way, local media reported. Video from the scene showed gang leader Jimmy (Barbecue) Cherizier paying homage to the monument.

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The United Nations, meanwhile, voted on Friday to extend for nine months an operation in Haiti that focuses on human rights work and advises the country on the rule of law. He has been active since 2019.

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