Gang with past kidnappings accused of kidnapping American missionaries in Haiti – .

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Gang with past kidnappings accused of kidnapping American missionaries in Haiti – .


PORT-AU-PRINCE, HAITITI – A gang accused of kidnapping five priests and two nuns earlier this year in Haiti are now accused of kidnapping 17 missionaries from a US-based organization, including a child of 2 years, police said on Sunday.

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, 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 once again grappling with a spike in gang-related kidnappings that has declined in recent months, after President Jovenel Moise was fatally shot in his private residence on July 7 and an earthquake in magnitude 7.2 killed more than 2,200 people in August.

The missionaries were returning home on Saturday after building an orphanage, according to a message from Ohio-based Christian Aid Ministries sent to various religious missions.

“This is a special prayer alert,” the one-minute message said. “Pray that the gang members will repent. “

The post 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 visited. orphanage.

No further details were immediately available.

A spokesperson for the US government said officials were aware of the information about the kidnapping.

“The well-being and safety of American citizens abroad is one of the State Department’s highest priorities,” the spokesperson said, declining to comment further.

Meanwhile, a senior US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the US was in contact with Haitian authorities to try to resolve the case.

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.

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.

In April, a man who claimed to be the leader of the 400 Mawozo gang told a radio station that they were responsible for the kidnapping of five priests, two nuns and three relatives of one of the priests. month. They were then released.

A demonstration is scheduled for Monday to denounce the country’s lack of security.

“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. in 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.

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Coto reported from San Juan, Puerto Rico. Matthew Lee in Washington contributed to this report.

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