US vows to help free hostages in Haiti after ransom demand – .

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Kidnappers in Haiti demand $ 17 million ransom for US missionaries – .


Port-au-Prince (AFP)

The United States on Tuesday promised to do everything in its power to free American and Canadian missionaries held hostage in Haiti, after the kidnappers demanded $ 1 million for each of the group’s 17 members.

A gang known as 400 Mawozo was identified as behind the kidnapping of the group, which includes five children, on Saturday.

“Within the administration, we have focused relentlessly on this,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said at a press conference during a visit to Ecuador, claiming that an FBI team was involved.

“We will do everything we can to help resolve the situation. “

Kidnapping by one of Haiti’s brazen criminal gangs underscored the country’s worsening woes following the assassination of President Jovenel Moise in July, as lawlessness rises in the hemisphere’s poorest country western.

The missionaries work for US-based Christian Aid Ministries, which said the group was abducted east of the capital Port-au-Prince as they returned from visiting an orphanage between the city and the border with the Dominican Republic.

The area has been under 400 Mawozo control for months, with security sources telling AFP the gang wanted a total of $ 17 million in ransoms.

– “Unsustainable” security crisis –

Haitian Justice Minister Liszt Quitel confirmed the gang was responsible for the kidnapping of 16 Americans and one Canadian.

He told the Washington Post that kidnapper gangs typically demand huge sums of money which are reduced during negotiations, saying his officials were not part of the talks.

The captive group is made up of five men, seven women and five children whose ages have not been disclosed.

Blinken said the State Department was in close contact with the Haitian government about the kidnappings.

“Unfortunately, it also indicates a much bigger problem and it is a security situation which is, quite simply, unsustainable,” he said.

“This cannot continue. This is certainly not conducive to an environment in which the work that needs to be done ”, including“ the investments that need to be made in the people of Haiti, in their future, can be made ”.

In April, 10 people including two French religious were kidnapped and detained for 20 days by 400 Mawozo in the same region.

In August, the United States issued a red alert on Haiti, urging Americans not to visit the Caribbean country due to kidnappings, crime and rampant civil unrest.

On Monday, a general strike was called to protest the rapid disintegration of security across the country.

In Port-au-Prince, shops, schools and government buildings have been closed but schools have been opened in several other towns in the country.

Kidnapping cases have more than doubled in Haiti over the past year as gangs grow in number and strength, leaving an already weak police force unable to cope.

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