A notorious gang kidnapped 16 American missionaries plus a Canadian missionary in Haiti last week. A spokesman for the Haitian Justice Ministry confirmed the abduction last Sunday.
Presently, the Caribbean nation is dealing with a sharp rise in kidnappings amid political turmoil.
American Missionaries Kidnapped In Haiti
Ohio-based Christian Aid Ministries issued a statement Sunday. It said that gang members abducted a group of 16 American missionaries and a Canadian during a trip to an orphanage.
In addition, five children were among the 16 missionaries abducted. An aide to Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry said that the missionaries are now being held as hostages. On the way to the orphanage, heavily armed men ambushed the group on a road outside Port-Au-Prince.
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Christian Aid Ministries appealed to the public to support the negotiations to free the American missionaries. “Join us in praying for those who are being held hostage, the kidnappers, and the families, friends, and churches of those affected,” the organization said.
Gédéon Jean works for the Center for Analysis and Research in Human Rights. The Port-au-Prince-based organization tracks kidnappings in Haiti.
Jean said that the kidnapping’s masterminds were members of the 400 Mawozo gang. Jean also said the gang controls the Croix-des-Bouquets suburb east of Port-au-Prince. They are responsible for about 80% of mass kidnappings in Haiti.
American Missionaries Are Just the Latest Victims of the 400 Mawozo Gang
“The gangs are increasingly showing that they are controlling more territory and operating as they like,” said Jean. However, the aide to PM Henry said that the 400 Mawozo gangs are still holding the missionaries hostage and that negotiations are underway.
Meanwhile, a US Embassy spokesman directed inquiries to the State Department. “The welfare and safety of U.S. citizens abroad are one of the highest priorities of the Department of State,” a department spokesperson said. “We have been in regular contact with senior Haitian authorities and will continue to work with them and interagency partners.”
Kidnappings in Haiti Surged In 2021
Ohio Senator Rob Portman, a Republican and a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, expressed his concern, “I have been in touch with the State Dept to encourage them to ensure the safe return of the missionaries,” he posted on Twitter last Sunday.
The assassination of President Jovenel Moise at his residence in Port-au-Prince last July led to a political crisis in Haiti. As a result, lawless elements began to surface in the area from time to time.
A United Nations report presented to the Security Council found that kidnappings rose to 328 from January to August this year. In contrast, the entirety of 2020 recorded only 234 kidnappings.
In addition, the UN said that gangs control swaths of the country, including about half of the capital. This turmoil led to fuel shortages and displacing thousands of people.
Gangs Are More Arrogant
Since June, gangs helped displace about 19,000 people, according to the UN reports. The violence is also escalating. In fact, the organization Doctors Without Borders had to close a hospital in August.
This medical center lies in Capita, Port-Au-Prince. DWB had to close a hospital in August in the capital’s Martissant neighborhood because of the threat of violence by gangs.
Pierre Esperance is the director of a leading Haitian human rights group. He said that there is a new class of criminals operating in the street. “The gangs are more arrogant and they control more territory. That is why there are more kidnappings,” he said.
Watch the ABC News video reporting that 17 missionaries were kidnapped by a gang in Haiti:
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