A Canadian is among a group of 17 missionaries and family members abducted in Haiti on Saturday amid a wave of similar crimes in the Caribbean country.
Christian Aid Ministries said 16 Americans and one Canadian linked to the charity were abducted near Ganthier, east of Port-au-Prince, as they returned to an orphanage. The group – seven women, five men and five children – were on their way to a charity base in Titanian, 40 kilometers away.
“Join us in praying for the families, friends and churches of the hostages, kidnappers and those affected,” Christian Aid Ministries, a charity affiliated with Amish and Mennonite groups, said in a statement on its website.
Haitian police put the blame on the 400 Mavozo, a gang that has carried out previous large-scale kidnappings and controls the Croix-des-Bouquets Arrangement, which also includes Ganthier. Port-au-Prince-based Le Nouveliste newspaper reported that a group of heavily armed men barricaded a road in the area and hijacked several vehicles packed with people.
It was not immediately clear how the Canadian or US governments would react.
“Global Affairs Canada is aware of media reports that a Canadian citizen was kidnapped in Haiti. Canadian government officials in Haiti are working with local authorities and have implicated the NGO to gather more information,” Abroad Lama Khodar, a spokesman for the ministry, wrote in an e-mail on Sunday.
The US State Department confirmed that 17 people, including 16 US citizens, had been abducted near Port-au-Prince, but did not release any further information.
Ryan Martin, a staff member at Christian Aid Ministries’ Canadian office in Moorfield, Ontario, said the group would limit released information on the kidnappings “in the best interest of the safety of those involved.” Christian Aid Ministries’ headquarters in Berlin, Ohio did not respond to messages.
An update on the charity’s website earlier this month touted its school program in Haiti as a means to “transform” it to “influence Haiti’s children”. The group’s 2020 annual report said Christian aid ministries left Haiti for nine months that year due to “political unrest”.
The Washington Post cited a message written by one of the kidnapped Americans, which was posted on a WhatsApp group during the incident. “Please pray for us! We are being held hostage, they kidnapped our driver. Pray pray. We don’t know where they are taking us.”
Kidnapping for ransom is common in Haiti, where gangs often control entire neighborhoods and important access routes.
According to consulting firm Control Risk, which maintains a global database of kidnappings, Haiti accounted for 10 percent of all kidnappings in the US during the first three months of 2021, while representing just 1 percent of the hemisphere’s population. So far this year, the Center for Analysis and Research in Human Rights, a Haitian NGO, has counted more than 600 kidnappings in the country, nearly three times as many as last year.
Over the past year, gangs have kidnapped police officers, entire buses of schoolchildren and, in at least one case, which played live in a Facebook broadcast, a pastor and church choir in the middle of a service. In an April 1 kidnapping, 400 mawjo confiscated five priests and two nuns, Including two French nationals. They were later released.
The most recent abduction comes in the midst of a protracted political crisis, including the assassination of President Jovenel Mosse in July. Presidential and legislative elections were scheduled for 7 November, but Prime Minister Ariel Henry postponed the vote indefinitely last month and fired the country’s electoral council.
Following the assassination of Mr. Moses, the Haitian government asked the US to send troops to the country. President Joe Biden turned down the request.
Mr Henri and Haiti’s police chief, Leon Charles, were forced to withdraw on Sunday from a ceremony honoring one of the country’s independence leaders, Jean-Jacques Deslains. When he tried to lead a delegation to Mr Deslins’ memorial in the Pont-Rouge area of Port-au-Prince, gunmen blocked his way, local media reported. Video of the scene shows gang leader Jimmy (Barbecue) Cherzier paying his respects at the memorial.
Meanwhile, the United Nations voted on Friday to extend by nine months an operation in Haiti that focuses on human rights work and advises the country on the rule of law. It is active since 2019.
Our Morning Update and Evening Update newsletters are written by Granthshala editors, giving you a brief summary of the day’s most important headlines. .