Home / World News / 12 Remaining Members of a U.S. Group Kidnapped in Haiti Have Been Released

12 Remaining Members of a U.S. Group Kidnapped in Haiti Have Been Released

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — The 12 remaining members of a group of 17 North American missionaries who had been kidnapped in Haiti two months ago have been released, their U.S.-based charity and the Haitian national police said Thursday.

“All seventeen of our loved ones are now safe,” the Christian Aid Ministries, an organization based in Ohio, said in a statement, without providing further details. It was not immediately clear whether a ransom had been paid, or the physical conditions of the hostages.

The abduction underscores the power of criminal gangs in Haiti, a Caribbean nation of 11 million grappling with a deepening political and economic crisis and the aftermath of a powerful earthquake.

Five of the hostages had been let go already, although little was known about the terms of their release. The others were found by local residents in an outlying area of Port-au-Prince, the capital, on Thursday, local media reports said. A Haitian police spokesman also confirmed the release without providing details.

The 12 released hostages were expected to travel to Miami on Thursday afternoon, according to one of the relatives, who spoke on condition of anonymity and did not provide further details to safeguard the missionaries’ safety. The U.S. Embassy in Haiti declined to comment on the news of their release.

The group, which included children, was made up of 16 Americans and one Canadian. They were taken in October by a gang called 400 Mawozo in a neighborhood of Port-au-Prince.

Gangs have steadily taken over new sections of the capital following the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, in July, effectively seizing control of all overland supply routes to and from the city. Gang violence has greatly aggravated Haiti’s already acute economic crisis, leaving supplies of fuel, medical equipment and other essential goods in the capital at the mercy of gang leaders.

The violence has also deadlocked Haiti’s political crisis.

Prime Minister Ariel Henry and the leaders of several major Haitian parties have said Haiti cannot hold free and fair elections to replace Mr. Moïse until the police win back control of the capital from the gangs. But some police units have been implicated in Mr. Moïse’s assassination, further undermining confidence in Haiti’s weak security forces and complicating the struggle against organized crime.

“There are so many Haitians terrorized by kidnappings and extreme levels of violence,” Representative Andy Levin, D-Mich., the co-chairman of the Haiti Caucus in the House, said in a statement on Thursday. He added that the United States and its partners must work to restore democracy “that can bring peace and security to the Haitian people.”

Haiti’s caretaker government had asked for U.S. military assistance to safeguard critical infrastructure following Mr. Moïse’s murder, but the request was swiftly rejected in Washington. The U.S. has a long and troubled history of armed intervention in Haiti.

Haitian politicians have for years financed gangs to use as paramilitary units that can terrorize opponents and stoke political unrest, according to the U.S. Treasury Department and diplomats in the country. When the remnants of central authority broke down following Mr. Moïse’s assassination, gangs filled the void, assuming ever greater political prominence.

One gang leader, Jimmy Cherizier, known as Barbeque, marched with his retinue dressed in a white suit to the downtown of Port-au-Prince in July to hold a memorial service for Mr. Moïse, without meeting any resistance from the police.

To finance themselves, gangs have increasingly resorted to kidnapping, targeting even students going to school and pastors delivering sermons.

The 400 Mawozo gang is well-known for orchestrating mass kidnappings, Its members had initially demanded a ransom of $1 million per person for the Christian Aid Ministries captives, but the sum was widely viewed as a starting point for negotiations.

“If I don’t get what I need, these Americans, I’d rather kill them all,” Mawozo’s leader, Wilson Joseph, said in a video released on social media in late October, after police killed five of his gang’s members. “I’ll unload a big gun in the head of each one of them.”

Harold Isaac reported from Port-au-Prince, and Anatoly Kurmanaev from Mexico City. Ruth Graham contributed reporting from Dallas.

About brandsauthority

Check Also

Vintage night of driving by Capel trainer-reinsman Aiden De Campo at pacing headquarters

Handsandwheels, a 2017 WA Derby winner, sustained a leg injury in 2020 and was out …

%d bloggers like this: