Missionaries Kidnapped in Hai 10/17 09:42
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) -- A group of 17 missionaries including children
was kidnapped by a gang in Haiti on Saturday, according to a voice message sent
to various religious missions by an organization with direct knowledge of the
The missionaries were on their way home from building an orphanage,
according to a message from Ohio-based Christian Aid Ministries.
"This is a special prayer alert," the one-minute message said. "Pray that
the gang members would come to repentance."
The message says the mission's field director is working with the U.S.
Embassy, and that the field director's family and one other unidentified man
stayed at the ministry's base while everyone else visited the orphanage.
No other details were immediately available.
A U.S. government spokesperson said they were aware of the reports on the
"The welfare and safety of U.S. citizens abroad is one of the highest
priorities of the Department of State," the spokesperson said, declining
Meanwhile, a senior U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said
the United States is in touch with Haitian authorities to try to resolve the
Haiti is once again struggling with a spike in gang-related kidnappings that
had diminished after President Jovenel Mose was fatally shot at his private
residence on July 7, and following a 7.2-magnitude earthquake that struck
southwest Haiti in August and killed more than 2,200 people.
Gangs have demanded ransoms ranging from a couple hundred dollars to more
than $1 million, according to authorities.
Last month, a deacon was killed in front of a church in the capital of
Port-au-Prince and his wife kidnapped, one of dozens of people who have been
abducted in recent months.
At least 328 kidnapping victims were reported to Haiti's National Police in
the first eight months of 2021, compared with a total of 234 for all of 2020,
according to a report issued last month by the United Nations Integrated Office
in Haiti known as BINUH.
Gangs have been accused of kidnapping schoolchildren, doctors, police
officers, busloads of passengers and others as they grow more powerful. In
April, one gang kidnapped five priests and two nuns, a move that prompted a
three-day protest, with Haitian now preparing for another protest scheduled for
Monday to decry the lack of security in the impoverished country.
"Political turmoil, the surge in gang violence, deteriorating socioeconomic
conditions -- including food insecurity and malnutrition -- all contribute to
the worsening of the humanitarian situation," BINUH said in its report. "An
overstretched and under-resourced police force alone cannot address the
security ills of Haiti."
On Friday, the U.N. Security Council voted unanimously to extend the U.N.
political mission in Haiti.
The kidnapping of the missionaries comes just days after high-level U.S.
officials visited Haiti and promised more resources for Haiti's National
Police, including another $15 million to help reduce gang violence, which this
year has displaced thousands of Haitians who now live in temporary shelters in
increasingly unhygienic conditions.
Among those who met with Haiti's police chief was Uzra Zeya, U.S. under
secretary of state for civilian security, democracy, and human rights.
"Dismantling violent gangs is vital to Haitian stability and citizen
security," she recently tweeted.