A local gang that days ago kidnapped a group of 17 American and Canadian missionaries in Haiti, among them children, is demanding a $17 million ransom to obtain their release, or $1 million for each person.
Since the Saturday kidnapping which drove world headlines, the group has been identified as the powerful and notorious “400 Mawozo” gang. The 16 Americans and one Canadian were in Haiti as part of the Ohio-based Christian Aid Ministries, and include five men, seven women, and five children.
FBI agents are now reportedly on the ground in Port-au-Prince, while representatives of the Ohio Christian ministry are said to be in contact with the hostage-takers, after the gang contacted the US-based organization in order to conduct a ransom negotiation. The FBI is said to be advising the missionary group during the phone calls.
An FBI official recently confirmed to CNN: “The FBI is part of a coordinated US government effort to get the Americans involved to safety. Due to operational considerations, no further information is available at this time.”
The missionaries had been visiting and working at a local orphanage in Port-au-Prince when they were taken. The ransom demand was confirmed via Haiti’s justice minister, according to reports:
Justice Minister Liszt Quitel said the gang was demanding $1 million per person. Quitel did not immediately return messages for comment, but he also confirmed the figure to the New York Times. The Journal said he identified the ages of the abducted children as 8 months and 3, 6, 14 and 15 years.
In recent years Haiti’s rapid descent into complete government and infrastructure breakdown has made the country incredibly dangerous for missionaries and foreign aid workers. Some reports show half of Port-au-Prince is controlled by criminal gangs. The country has suffered years of political chaos as kidnappings have recently erupted.
In the first eight months of 2021, 328 kidnapping victims were reported to Haitian police, compared with 234 for all of 2020, according to United Nations Integrated Office in Haiti known.
What’s made the violence worse is the assassination of president Jovenel Moise in July and a devastating earthquake in August that killed more than 2,000 people. It seems the Biden administration has another crisis on their hands. Hopefully, they won’t ignore this one as they’ve with the one along the Mexico–US border.