Haitian gang accused of kidnapping American and Canadian missionaries

A group of American missionaries kidnapped in Haiti over the weekend are being held by one of the country’s most notorious gangs, according to a Haitian police official.

Sixteen U.S. nationals and one Canadian were visiting an orphanage on Saturday as part of their work for Christian Aid Ministries, according to a statement from the nonprofit on Sunday. Among those detained are five children, the statement added.

“Join us in praying for those held hostage, the kidnappers and the families, friends and churches of those affected,” Christian Aid Ministries said in the statement.

The gang, known as 400 Mawozo, kidnapped missionaries in the commune of Ganthier east of the country’s capital, Port-au-Prince, police inspector Frantz Champagne told The Associated on Sunday. Press.

The 400 Mawozo was also blamed by the Haitian news agency Juno7 for the kidnapping of a group of five Catholic priests and two nuns earlier this year near the site of Saturday’s kidnapping. They were all finally released.

A team of FBI agents landed in Haiti on Sunday to help the State Department secure the release of the missionaries, a source close to the Biden administration confirmed on Monday. The source had no further information on the status of the whereabouts of the hostages or the negotiations.

While crime has been on the rise for years in Haiti, a wave of kidnappings and violence escalates after the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse at his home on July 7 and a deadly earthquake that left 2,200 dead a month later.

“When we hear that there has been a kidnapping (…) people do not go out into the streets,” taxi driver Charles Pierre told the AP in the capital.

“The gangs run Port-au-Prince. It’s under their control, ”former special envoy to Haiti Ambassador Daniel Foote told NBC News on October 9. after resigning to protest President Joe Biden’s deportation of Haitians seeking refuge in the United States on humanitarian grounds.

Some 28,000 Haitians gathered under a bridge in Del Rio, Texas, near the US-Mexico border last month. More than 7,200 migrants had been deported to Haiti as of October 7.

The US coast guard claims to have recovered three times more Haitians at sea in 2021 than last year.

Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry Sunday refused what he described as rumors that his office paid money “to benefit armed gangs.”

A man and a child walk, burning tires on a street in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on Sunday. “The gangs run Port-au-Prince. It’s under their control, ”former special envoy to Haiti, Ambassador Daniel Foote, told NBC News. Odelyn Joseph / AP

This happened the same day he was shot as he attempted to lay a wreath in honor of one of the country’s founding fathers in an area of ​​Port-au-Prince controlled by gangs.

A senior State Department official told NBC News: “We are engaging with Haitian authorities at the highest level. A spokesperson added that “the well-being and security of US citizens abroad” was one of their highest priorities.

Christian Aid Ministries offers a children’s school aid program and Bible training for local church leaders in the villages of Titanyen and La Source in Haiti, according to its website, as well as food and material support for locals.

The Millersburg, Ohio-based organization is affiliated with Amish, Mennonite, and other conservative Anabaptist Christian groups, but is just one of many foreign organizations in Haiti that often cover large gaps in welfare. of the government.

Christian Aid Ministries’ operations in that country were called into question in 2019, when the association admitted that two leaders knowingly authorized a man with a history of underage sexual offenses to serve the organization in Haiti.

In May 2020, Christian Aid Ministries said it had paid survivors of abuse in Haiti out-of-court settlements in the amount of “$ 420,000 to help with housing, funding for small business start-ups, resettlement in other places, to vocational training and restitution ”.

Courtney brogle, Andrea Mitchell, Associated press and Daniella Silva contributed.

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