Mon | Nov 29, 2021

US religious group says 17 missionaries kidnapped in Haiti

Published:Sunday | October 17, 2021 | 10:43 AM
A view of the densely populated Jalousie neighbourhood of Port-au-Prince, Tuesday, September 28, 2021. A group of 17 US missionaries including children was kidnapped by a gang in Haiti on Saturday, October 16, 2021, according to a voice message sent to various religious missions by an organization with direct knowledge of the incident. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd, file)

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — A group of 17 missionaries including children was kidnapped by a gang in Haiti on Saturday, according to a voice message sent to various religious missions by an organisation with direct knowledge of the incident.

The missionaries were on their way home from building an orphanage, according to a message from Ohio-based Christian Aid Ministries.

“This is a special prayer alert,” the one-minute message said. “Pray that the gang members would come to repentance.”

The message says the mission's field director is working with the US Embassy, and that the field director's family and one other unidentified man stayed at the ministry's base while everyone else visited the orphanage.

No other details were immediately available.

A US government spokesperson said they were aware of the reports on the kidnapping.

“The welfare and safety of US citizens abroad are one of the highest priorities of the Department of State,” the spokesperson said, declining further comment.

Meanwhile, a senior US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the United States is in touch with Haitian authorities to try to resolve the case.

Haiti is once again struggling with a spike in gang-related kidnappings that had diminished after President Jovenel Moïse was fatally shot at his private residence on July 7, and following a 7.2-magnitude earthquake that struck southwest Haiti in August and killed more than 2,200 people.

Gangs have demanded ransoms ranging from a couple of hundred dollars to more than $1 million, according to authorities.

Last month, a deacon was killed in front of a church in the capital of Port-au-Prince and his wife kidnapped, one of the dozens of people who have been abducted in recent months.

At least 328 kidnapping victims were reported to Haiti's National Police in the first eight months of 2021, compared with a total of 234 for all of 2020, according to a report issued last month by the United Nations Integrated Office in Haiti known as BINUH.

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