Port-au-Prince, Haiti – US officials are working with Haitian authorities to secure the release of 12 adults and five children from a US missionary group who were abducted over the weekend by a gang notorious for murder, kidnapping and extortion.
Police Inspector Frantz Champagne told the Associated Press on Sunday that the group was snatched away by the 400 Mavojo gang, which controls the Croix-des-Bouquets region east of the capital of Port-au-Prince. The kidnapping took place on Saturday in the Ganthier community, which is located in the gang’s territory. It was blamed for the kidnapping of five priests and two nuns earlier this year.
As officials call for the release of 16 Americans and one Canadian, along with Ohio-based Christian aid ministries, local unions and other organizations are expected to launch a strike Monday to protest Haiti’s deteriorating lack of security.
The poorest country in the Western Hemisphere is again struggling with a spike in gang-related kidnappings, which had subsided in recent months. On 7 July, President Jovenel Mosse was shot dead at his private residence. And in August a magnitude 7.2 earthquake killed more than 2,200 people.
“Everybody is worried. They’re kidnapped from all social classes,” Mayhu Changex, president of the Haiti Association of Owners and Drivers, told Magic9 radio station.
He said that till the government does not guarantee the safety of the people, the ban on work will continue.
The kidnapping of the missionaries came just days after high-level US officials visited Haiti and promised more resources for Haiti’s national police, including another $15 million to help reduce mass violence, Which this year has displaced thousands of Haitians who now live in temporary shelters. increasingly unhygienic conditions.
The US State Department said on Sunday that it is in regular contact with senior Haitian officials and will continue to work with them and interagency partners.
“The welfare and safety of American citizens abroad is one of the State Department’s top priorities,” the agency said in a statement.
Christian aid ministries said the kidnapped group included seven women, five men and five children, including a two-year-old. The organization said he was taken during a visit to an orphanage.
“Join us in praying for the families, friends and churches of the hostages, kidnappers and those affected,” Christian Aid Ministries said in a statement. “As an organization, we entrust this situation to God and trust Him to see us.”
An annual report released last year by Christian Aid Ministries stated that its US staff had returned to their base in Haiti after a nine-month absence “due to political unrest” and the “uncertainty and uncertainty arising from such instability”. difficulties” was mentioned.
About a year ago, Haitian police issued a wanted poster for Wilson Joseph, the alleged leader of the 400 Mawzo gang, on charges of murder, attempt to murder, kidnapping, auto theft and hijacking of freight trucks. He goes by the nickname “Lanmo Sanjou”, which means “Death does not know what day it is coming.”
According to officials, amid a rise in kidnappings, gangs have demanded ransoms ranging from a few hundred dollars to $1 million, sometimes killing the kidnapped.
FILE – A police convoy drives past a wall painted with the president’s image down the entrance street of the presidential residence in Port-au-Prince on July 15, 2021, in the wake of the assassination of Haiti’s President Jovenel Mois on July 7 Is.
A report last month by the United Nations Unified Office in Haiti said at least 328 kidnappings were reported to Haiti’s national police in the first eight months of 2021, compared to a total of 234 kidnappings in 2020.
The gang has been accused of kidnapping school children, doctors, police officers, busloads of passengers and others as they grow more powerful. In April, a man claiming to be the leader of 400 mawjo told a radio station that a priest was responsible for the kidnapping of five priests, two nuns and three relatives that month. They were later released.
A spike in kidnappings and gang-related violence has forced Haitians to circle around some gang-controlled areas, while others choose to stay home, which means Charles Pierre, a moto taxi driver in Port-au-Prince Like people have less money. Who has many children to feed.
“People are not coming out on the streets,” he said. “We can’t find people to transport.”
Coto reported from San Juan, Puerto Rico. Associated Press videographer Pierre-Richard Luxma in Port-au-Prince and AP writers Matthew Lee in Washington and Matt Sedensky in New York contributed to this report.