An unknown number of between 15 and 17 American Christian missionaries and members of their families were kidnapped this Saturday by a criminal gang on the outskirts of the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince, a security source in the Caribbean country informed the agency of news France Presse. Among the kidnapped are several children.
The kidnapping took place on Saturday morning when members of the gang called “400 mawozo” diverted several cars that traveled on roads in the areas where they usually operate and kidnapped the Americans, as well as several Haitian citizens. The missionaries and their relatives were returning from visiting an orphanage located about 30 km from Port-au-Prince, explained a source from the country’s security services.
For some members of that religious organization based in Ohio, USA, this was their first trip to the country. The source stated that for months the criminal group “400 mawozo” has been perpetrating kidnappings and robberies in the area between the Haitian capital and the border with the Dominican Republic, and stated that he could not confirm whether the kidnappers have requested the payment of a ransom.
A spokesman for the US government told the French news agency that the State Department knew the information and that they had “nothing to add at the moment.” “The well-being and safety of US citizens abroad is one of our top priorities at the State Department,” he added.
In April 10 people, including 10 French religious, were kidnapped by that gang in the same area. Released after 20 days in captivity, Father Michel Briand then declared that the abductees were simply “in a bad place, at a bad time” and that those who abducted them had not planned to kidnap them.
Armed gangs, which for years have controlled the poorest districts of the Haitian capital, have extended their power to other areas in and around Port-au-Prince, where the number of kidnappings for economic extortion has been increasing. In the first nine months of 2021, more than 600 crimes of this type have been registered compared to 231 in the same period of the previous year, according to data from the Center for Analysis and Research in Human Rights, based in the Haitian capital. . Haiti is one of the countries in the world with the highest number of kidnappings per inhabitant.
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It is also the poorest country in America. A deep political crisis added to natural disasters such as the earthquakes of 2010 and the one in August of this year, weighs down the socio-economic development of Haiti. The July 7 assassination of President Jovenel Moïse by a group of hitmen at his private residence further plunged the Haitian population into uncertainty and insecurity.