Haitian police accuse notorious gang of kidnapping missionaries

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Haitian police accuse notorious gang of kidnapping missionaries


A Haitian gang notorious for their brazen kidnappings and murders has been accused by police of kidnapping 17 Christian missionaries, including five children, from an organization based in the United States.
The 400 Mawozo gang uprooted the group from Ganthier, east of the capital Port-au-Prince, Haitian police inspector Frantz Champagne told the Associated Press (AP) news agency on Sunday.

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.

Ohio-based Christian Aid Ministries said the kidnapped group consisted of 16 U.S. citizens and one Canadian national and included seven women and five men as well as children. They were on a bus on their way to visit an orphanage when they were abducted, he added.

“We are seeking God’s direction for a resolution, and the authorities are looking for ways to help,” the organization said in a statement.

Haiti has seen an increase in kidnappings following the assassination of President Jovenel Moise in July as armed gangs take advantage of the spread of insecurity and a political crisis exacerbated by the assassination of Moise.

“This kind of climate gives everyone the chance to do whatever they want because it’s easy now,” Emmanuela Douyon, founder and executive director of Policite, a think tank, told Al Jazeera. “There isn’t a lot of control. Anyone who has something against you can do something. The risks are higher now than they were before.

Those affected usually come from the Haitian middle class – teachers, priests, civil servants, small business owners – who can hoard a ransom. The gangs have demanded ransoms ranging from a few hundred dollars to over a million dollars, according to authorities.

The 17-person group is part of the US-based Christian Aid Missionaries and includes five children [Aaron Josefczyk/Reuters]
Children stand in the courtyard of the Maison La Providence de Dieu orphanage in Ganthier, Croix-des-Bouquets, Sunday after the abduction of the missionaries [Joseph Odelyn/AP Photo]

Civil society groups called for the immediate release of the missionaries on Sunday. The youngest is only two years old.

“We call for the release of those abducted, whether of American nationality or of other nationalities,” Gedeon Jean, director of the Center for Analysis and Research on Human Rights, told AFP news agency. male, based in the capital Port-au-Prince. . He said the current situation was “prejudicial to human dignity”.

The US State Department said it was aware of the reports. US embassies generally do not disclose information about citizens due to privacy regulations. A senior US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told AFP that the United States was in contact with Haitian authorities to try to resolve the case.

The Canadian government said it was working with authorities and local groups to gather more information.

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While attacks on foreigners are relatively rare, 400 Mawozo is suspected of being involved in the April kidnapping in the same region of a group of priests and nuns which included French citizens.

Among its activities in Haiti, Christian Aid Ministries runs a medical clinic, helps orphans and organizes Bible readings.

Its annual report last year noted that US personnel had returned to their base in Haiti after a nine-month absence “due to political unrest” and noted “the uncertainty and difficulties” resulting from such instability.

Haiti was embroiled in growing political and economic conflict following the assassination of President Jovenel Moise in July [Joseph Odelyn/AP Photo]

An AP team visited the group’s orphanage in Ganthier on Sunday, where two children were seen walking in a yard. A security guard confirmed that this was where the kidnapped missionaries went before being abducted. The guard called the pastor of the orphanage at the request of the PA, but declined to comment, saying only, “Let’s leave it as it is.

Nearly a year ago, Haitian police released a poster looking for alleged leader of 400 Mawozo, Wilson Joseph, for murder, attempted murder, kidnapping, car theft and hijacking trucks carrying goods. He bears the nickname “Lanmò Sanjou”, which means “death does not know what day it is coming”.

At least 328 kidnappings were reported to the Haitian National Police in the first eight months of 2021, compared to a total of 234 for all of 2020, according to a report released last month by the United Nations Integrated Office in Haiti known as BINUH.

Analyst Jean said the absence of a strong state left a void that criminal gangs have moved to fill, extending their grip from some of the capital’s poorest neighborhoods to surrounding areas.

The kidnapping of the missionaries comes just days after senior U.S. officials visited Haiti and pledged more resources for Haiti’s national police, including $ 15 million to help reduce gang violence.



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