Up to 16 American Christian missionaries and their families, including children, have reportedly been kidnapped by a notorious gang in Haiti’s capital of Port-au-Prince.
“The former field director, Dan Hooley, said Sunday morning that all of the adults were staff members for the group [Christian Aid Ministries], which has fewer than 30 people in the country,” The New York Times reported. “Local authorities said the group that was kidnapped included 16 Americans and one Canadian. Mr. Dooley said a 2-year-old and another young child were among them.”
Law enforcement officials said that the gang, known as “400 Mawozo,” controls the area where the missionaries were kidnapped.
“The group has sown terror for several months in the suburbs, engaging in armed combat with rival gangs and perpetrating the kidnapping of businessmen and police officers,” the Times reported separately. “The gang has also introduced a new type of kidnapping in Haiti — kidnapping en masse. For the first time Haiti began to see entire groups kidnapped while transiting on buses or together on the streets.”
The Ohio-based group was kidnapped as they were traveling by vehicle on Saturday to an area north of Port-au-Prince after visiting an orphanage in Croix des Bouquets.
The Washington Post obtained a “prayer alert” from Christian Aid Ministries that stated that “men, women and children” with the group had been kidnapped by an armed gang.
“The mission field director and the American embassy are working to see what can be done,” the prayer alert said, later adding, “Pray that the gang members will come to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ.”
A Biden administration official said that they were aware of the situation, saying, “The welfare and safety of U.S. citizens abroad is one of the highest priorities of the Department of State.”
Haiti is once again struggling with a spike in gang-related kidnappings that had diminished in recent months, after President Jovenel Moïse was fatally shot at his private residence on July 7 and a 7.2-magnitude earthquake killed more than 2,200 people in August. Gangs have demanded ransoms ranging from a couple hundred dollars to more than $1 million, according to authorities.
Last month, a deacon was killed in front of a church in the capital of Port-au-Prince and his wife kidnapped, one of dozens of people who have been abducted in recent months. At least 328 kidnapping victims were reported to Haiti’s National Police in the first eight months of 2021, compared with a total of 234 for all of 2020, according to a report issued last month by the United Nations Integrated Office in Haiti known as BINUH.
This report has been updated to include additional information.
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