PORT-au-Prince, Haiti — A missionary group, including 16 Americans and a Canadian, were abducted Saturday during a visit to an orphanage in Haiti, Ohio-based Christian Aid Ministries Group said on Sunday.

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“We request urgent prayers for the group of Christian Aid Ministry workers who were abducted on Saturday, October 16 during a visit to an orphanage,” it said in a statement, including seven women, five men and five children. was taken away.

Gang members kidnap the group after leaving an orphanage in a Caribbean nation where violence has escalated

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Since the assassination of President Jovenel Mois in July and the earthquake in August, CNN and the New York Times previously reported.

Christian Aid Ministries did not provide any information on where the group had been taken or efforts to free them, saying “we are seeking God’s direction for a resolution, and authorities seek ways to help.” are doing.”

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Illinois Republican US Congressman Adam Kizinger told CNN that the United States should find the group and see if it can negotiate their release without paying a ransom or use the military or police to secure their freedom. should be used.

“We need to find out where they are and see if negotiations – without paying a ransom – are possible. Or do

Whatever we need to do, whether on the military front or on the police front,” Kinzinger, who sits on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said.

When asked whether it could confirm the abduction, a US State Department spokesman said only that he was aware of the reports, adding: “The welfare and safety of American citizens abroad are among the State Department’s top priorities. is one.”

On August 23, the department warned US citizens against traveling to Haiti, America’s poorest country, citing the risk of kidnapping, crime, civil unrest and COVID-19.

Reporting by Caribbean Newsroom; Additional reporting by Barbara Goldberg in New York; Written by Cassandra Garrison and Arshad Mohamed; Editing by Nick Ziminsky