A group of 17 American missionaries, including children, have been kidnapped by gangs in Haiti. The kidnapping was revealed from a voicemail sent by a religious group with knowledge of the incident.
Christian Aid Ministries, based in the state of Ohio, sent a message to another mission, saying the 17 people helped build the orphanage and had fled the scene when they were kidnapped.
“This is a special prayer request,” the one-minute message said. “Pray that the gang members will repent.”
The message said that the mission field director and his family and one other unidentified person were staying at the service base while everyone who visited the orphanage was kidnapped.
The field director notified United States (US) officials.
A US government spokesman said officials were aware of reports of the abductions. “The welfare and safety of US citizens abroad is one of the State Department’s highest priorities,” the spokesman said, declining to comment further.
The latest abduction in disputed Haiti comes just days after top US officials visited the Caribbean nation and pledged another $15 million to Haiti’s National Police to help reduce gang violence.
The US Undersecretary of State for Civil Security, Democracy and Human Rights, Uzra Zeya, recently said on Twitter, “Dismantling violent gangs is critical to the stability of Haiti and the security of its citizens.”
Haiti has a long history of gang-related kidnappings, but the numbers have dwindled after President Jovenel Moïse was assassinated at his private residence on July 7, and following a magnitude 7.2 earthquake that hit southwest Haiti in August. The quake killed more than 2,200 people.
Kidnappings by gangs have now increased, with ransom demands ranging from a few hundred dollars to more than $1 million, authorities said. [lt/jm]