In a video posted on YouTube, the leader of the 400 Mawozo gang who kidnapped the group said: “I swear by thunder that if I don’t get what I ask for, I will put a bullet in these Americans’ heads. . . “
Wilson Joseph, who was dressed in a blue suit, wearing a blue hat and carrying a large cross around his neck, also threatened Prime Minister Ariel Henry and Haiti’s national police chief.
Speaking in front of open coffins that apparently contained several members of his gang who were recently killed, he said: “You make me cry. I cry from the water. But I’ll make you cry blood. “
There was no immediate comment from Mr Henry or the National Police Chief, but on Thursday afternoon the President announced that the current National Police Chief Leon Charles had resigned and was replaced by Frantz Elbe.
“We want public peace to be restored, that we return to normal life and that we find the path to democracy,” said Mr. Henry.
Earlier this week, authorities said the gang were demanding $ 1million (£ 720,000) for each kidnapped, but it was not immediately clear whether that included the five children in the group, one of whom is eight. month.
The group kidnapped by Ohio-based Christian Aid Ministries is made up of 16 Americans and one Canadian.
They were kidnapped in Croix-des-Bouquets over the weekend – about 13 kilometers from the capital Port-au-Prince – with their Haitian driver.
Ahead of the video’s publication, Weston Showalter, spokesperson for Christian Aid Ministries, told a press conference that the families of the missionaries were from Amish, Mennonite and other conservative Anabaptist communities in the Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Oregon and Ontario, Canada.
In a letter he read aloud from families, they said, “God has given our loved ones the unique opportunity to live out our Lord’s command to love your enemies.
He invited the public to join the group in praying for the kidnappers and those targeted, adding, “Pray for these families. They are in a difficult situation.
Christian Aid Ministries later said he would not comment on the video “until those directly involved in securing the release of the hostages have determined that the comments will not jeopardize the safety and welfare of the hostages. be of our staff and members of our family ”.
The number of women and children abducted in Haiti in the first eight months of this year has exceeded last year’s total, according to UNICEF.