Seventeen Christian missionaries from the United States have been abducted on a visit to Haiti. One Canadian citizen and 16 American citizens were kidnapped on Oct. 16 by a Haitian-based gang, “400 Mawozo,” for $1 million per head for a total of $17 million.
According to an article by CNN, the missionaries were a part of the Ohio-based Christian Aid Ministries (CAM). Those abducted by the gang include five men, seven women and five children. The missionaries were returning from an orphanage that received aid and support from CAM when they were kidnapped by the gang known as 400 Mawozo.
CAM officials declined to provide any specific details on this issue to The Hilltop, however, they have released a public statement detailing the events that transpired in Haiti last weekend. In the public statement released by the organization, the age range of the adults held captive spans from 18 to 48 years old. The ages of the children range from 8 months to 15 years.
In an article by the New York Times, 400 Mawozo “controls the area where the missionaries were abducted in the suburbs of Port-au-Prince.”
A source from Haiti’s security forces told CNN in an article that, “kidnapping for ransom is a hallmark activity of the gang.”
Moreover, according to an article by NPR, “the gang behind the kidnapping has a long record of killings”, and they “kidnapped five priests, two nuns, and three others in April; that group included two French citizens.”
According to a statement by Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken to the New York Times, “the State Department was working with the F.B.I., the Haitian national police, churches, and other groups to get the hostages released,” Blinken also stated that the abductions are “indicative of a larger problem, and that is a security situation that is, quite simply, unsustainable”.
There is a “wave of kidnappings and the rise in gang attacks” in Haiti according to a report by the U.N. Security Council. The report also mentioned there has been a “36 percent increase in the number of kidnappings in the first four months of 2021, with 171 abductions reported, compared with 110 in the last four months in 2020.”
To combat the increase in the number of abductions in Haiti, former Prime Minister Joseph Jouthe prohibited the usage of tinted windows on various automobiles. Furthermore, the national police Director-General ad interim set up an anti-kidnapping task force as well as a hotline.
However, as stated in the U.N. Security Council report, “measures were widely criticized as ad hoc [necessary and required] reactions rather than part of a comprehensive public safety plan.”
According to another article by the New York Times, the percent increase in kidnappings can be attributed to the expansion of the gang’s territory as the “government struggled to cope in the face of natural disasters and the assassination of the country’s president in July.”
An article by CNN stated that, “life in Port-au-Prince is marred by skyrocketing inflation, frequent blackouts, and shortages of food and fuel, largely due to gang activity choking off key delivery routes.”
Currently, officials have initiated a negotiation process to discuss the details and terms of the ransom payment in hopes of rescuing the abductees unscathed.
Haitian Justice Minister Liszt Quitel told the New York Times in a phone interview that the gang has not yet set a deadline to receive the ransom payment.
Quitel also said that the mass abduction, “might signal just the start of a long negotiation.” He also said that, “these gangs know these demands cannot be met and they will consider a counteroffer from the families. And the negotiations can take a couple of days sometimes, or a couple of weeks.”
On Oct. 21, an online video surfaced that allegedly displays gang leader, Wilson Joseph, claiming that he will fatally harm the abductees if the ransom is not paid.
An article by the Wall Street Journal provides a quote from Joseph saying, “I swear that if I don’t get what I want, I prefer to kill the Americans. I’ll put a bullet in each of their heads.”
White House officials from the Biden administration told the Wall Street Journal that they have been “relentlessly focused” on the mass abduction and “will do everything that we can to help resolve the situation.”
Copy edited by Jasper Smith