Up to 17 US missionaries and their families kidnapped in Haiti – reports

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No less than 17 American Christian missionaries, including children, were kidnapped in Haiti on Saturday, according to American media citing security officials.

The kidnapping occurred as missionaries left an orphanage in the crisis-stricken Caribbean country, according to the New York Times.

A spokesperson for the US government said he was aware of reports of 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.

The U.S. Embassy in Haiti did not respond to an after-hours request for comment.

A Haitian police spokeswoman said she was seeking information on the matter.

The Associated Press reported that an organization with direct knowledge of the incident sent a voicemail to a number of religious groups.

“This is a special prayer alert,” said the one-minute message from Ohio-based Christian Aid Ministries. “Pray that the gang members will repent. “

The message indicates that the field director of the mission is working with the United States Embassy.

A rise in violence has displaced thousands of people and hampered economic activity in the poorest country in the Americas. The gangs have demanded ransoms ranging from thousands of dollars to over a million dollars, officials said.

Last month, a deacon was killed outside a church in 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 Haiti’s 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.

Violence skyrocketed after the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse in July and an earthquake in August that left more than 2,000 dead.

Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report

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