Five children and 16 Americans were kidnapped from a school in Haiti on Tuesday, according to the Associated Press. The kidnappers are still at large as of Wednesday morning.
In Haiti, a group of 16 Americans and a Canadian were kidnapped. Five children were among the group. The kidnappers demanded $10 million for their release.
According to a representative for the Haitian Justice Ministry, a group of American missionaries working in Haiti were abducted by a known gang amid a spike in abductions and political unrest in the Caribbean country.
More information was not provided by the representative. Christian Aid Ministries, located in Ohio, stated in a statement on Sunday that a group of 16 Americans and one Canadian was abducted Saturday morning while on their way to an orphanage. According to the group, five of those kidnapped are youngsters.
“Join us in prayer for those being held captive, the kidnappers, and those affected’s families, friends, and churches,” Christian Aid Ministries stated.
The abduction was carried out by members of the 400 Mawozo gang, according to Gédéon Jean of the Center for Analysis and Research in Human Rights, a Port-au-Prince-based group that records kidnappings in Haiti.
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Mr. Jean claims that the gang, which is based in the Croix-des-Bouquets neighborhood east of Port-au-Prince, is responsible for around 80% of Haiti’s major kidnappings.
“The gangs are gradually demonstrating that they control more area and operate according to their own rules,” Mr. Jean added.
A spokeswoman for the US Embassy sent questions to the State Department, which stated it was aware of the kidnapping claims.
“The Department of State places a high priority on the welfare and safety of American citizens living overseas.” “We are aware of these claims and have nothing more to say at this time,” a State Department official said on Sunday.
Senator Rob Portman of Ohio, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, voiced his displeasure with the findings. On Sunday, he announced on Twitter, “I have been in contact with the State Department to ask them to guarantee the safe return of the missionaries.”
Kidnappings in Haiti have increased this year, as the country has been gripped by a growing political crisis since President Jovenel Mose was assassinated at his house in Port-au-Prince in July. A number of businesses, security officials, and former Colombian soldiers have been detained, but it is yet unclear who is to blame.
Kidnappings increased to 328 in the first eight months of this year, compared to 234 in all of 2020, according to a UN study given to the Security Council, as gangs target everyone from destitute street sellers to rich executives. According to the United Nations, gangs control large parts of the nation, including almost half of the capital, creating fuel shortages and displacing thousands of people while obstructing humanitarian work after a catastrophic earthquake in August.
The 400 Mawozo gang rules the Croix-des-Bouquets neighborhood east of Port-au-Prince.
Associated Press photo by Dieu Nalio Chery
According to the United Nations, gangs have displaced around 19,000 people since early June, while Doctors Without Borders was forced to shut a hospital in the capital’s Martissant area in August due to gang violence, many of which have links to influential officials.
“The gangs are more arrogant and have more territory,” said Pierre Esperance, head of a prominent Haitian human rights organization. “It’s because of this that there are more kidnappings.”
Five priests, two nuns, and three of their families were kidnapped by kidnappers from the 400 Mawozo gang in April, according to the Vatican. The clergy were on their way to the installation of a parish priest when they were kidnapped. The operations of religious institutions were halted for three days, while church bells tolled in protest of the abduction. The kidnapped people were subsequently freed.
Since Mr. Mose’s killing, the frequency of kidnappings has increased, prompting a national union of transportation workers to call for a strike on Monday to protest abductions of its members. According to the Center for Analysis and Research on Human Rights, 117 individuals were abducted in September, up from 31 in July. Foreigners have been the victims of 42 kidnappings so far this year.
“Every day, you’re terrified. “Every time you return home, you say to yourself, ‘Thank God, I’m here, they didn’t abduct me,’” said Hans Joseph, a 47-year-old Port-au-Prince small-business owner. “Every day it becomes worse, worse, worst.”
The abduction happened a day after the United Nations Security Council extended a U.N. mission in Haiti, which is seeking to restore political stability, for another nine months.
It also followed Ambassador Daniel Foote, the United States’ special envoy to Haiti, who was appointed following Mr. Mose’s killing, resigning last month. Mr. Foote resigned in protest at the Biden administration’s mass deportation of Haitian migrants who had landed at the southern border of the United States.
—This essay was co-written by Patrick Saint-Pre, Jim Carlton, and Tarini Parti.
José de Córdoba can be reached at email@example.com, and Ryan Dube can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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