TORONTO – Time is the biggest issue facing the FBI and government officials in rescuing 17 members of a US-based missionary group, including a Canadian who was kidnapped over the weekend by a violent gang in Haiti, hostage negotiation experts say.

- Advertisement -

Tom Hart, president of Canadian Critical Incident Inc., which provides first responders with training in major incident command and crisis negotiations, told Granthshala News Channel on Tuesday that receiving ransom demands from hostage takers is not a “bad thing”. Is.

“It’s actually a good thing, so you can start working with him. You want to start developing a rapport with the leader, and timing is a big issue,” Hart said.

advertisement

He said the officers started talks with the gang as soon as they got information about the hostages being taken. Hart says that the longer the talks with the negotiating team, the more time it takes for the command team to plan a rescue strategy.

“The longer they talk to them, the more rapport they are with the leader. It also gives them a good opportunity if they make a tactical choice that – which is most likely – they have time to rehearse. It’s time to prepare,” Hart said.

- Advertisement -

A Haitian official told The Associated Press that someone from the 400 Mawzo gang called a leader of Ohio-based Christian Aid Ministries shortly after the kidnapping to pay a ransom of $17 million, a $1 million per person kidnapped Saturday demanded.

The organization says a group of missionaries, including six women, six men and five children, aged between 8 months and 15 years, were abducted at an orphanage.

Sixteen of the kidnappers are American, and one is Canadian. A Haitian driver was also kidnapped along with the missionaries, bringing the total number of people to 18.

While it is government policy in the US and Canada not to pay ransom demands for fear it will lead to future kidnappings, Calvin Christie, a Vancouver-based negotiating consultant, told Granthshala’s Your Morning that the situation in Haiti is different. .

“The policy is specifically around the areas of ransom and terrorist organizations, and it is a criminal organization so it is different and unique, and there is no clear policy on paying ransom. [or] Not paying the ransom, as it pertains,” Christie said in an interview on Wednesday.

However, from a strategic standpoint, Christie said G20 governments typically try to prevent parties from paying ransoms, including individual family members.

He said the $17 million ransom is “unprecedented”, and it is unlikely that the gang will receive such an amount.

The former Canadian ambassador to Haiti, Gilles Rivard, told Granthshala news channel on Tuesday that the ransom in Haiti is typically around $20,000 per person.

“Honestly, I don’t believe they’re going to get that money. That’s why talks can go on for days if it’s not weeks,” Reward said.

According to the Center for Analysis and Research of Human Rights, the kidnapping is one of at least 119 kidnappings recorded in Haiti in the first half of October. Reward said there have been more than 600 kidnappings in Haiti over the past year.

“When I was ambassador, we had kidnappings, but we were talking about five, 10 a year,” he said. “It’s just an indication of how bad the situation is in this very poor country.”

Reward said a hostage situation of this size could be “complicated” in terms of rescue, and that Canadian ambassadors should work hard to resolve the matter.

“We have a Canadian so we have a role to play, and I’m sure the department is leaving no stone unturned in its effort to free the hostages,” he said.

Experts say Haitian gangs have become more brazen as the country works to recover from the July assassination of President Jovenel Moise and the August earthquake that killed more than 2,200 people in August.

While Hart noted that he could not speak to the outcome of the hostage situation, he highlighted the 2014 Lindt Cafe siege in New South Wales, where a gunman took 18 people hostage in a 16-hour standoff. When the Australian government refused to pay the ransom.

Only two hostages died in the siege, which Hart calls “notable”.

“The New South Wales negotiating team did a remarkable job, and this gave the technical team ample time to rehearse and prepare for a dynamic defense,” he said.

While missionaries in Haiti are at “high risk” given their age and gang instability, Hart said these hostages are “a valuable asset to the hostage taker.”

“If the hostages would suffer, that would be lost in any potential payments,” he explained.

Hart said he hoped the current situation in Haiti would be resolved quickly and without any injuries.

“I think there is a higher success rate depending on the tactical team and the incident command team,” he said.

With files from The Associated Press