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WASHINGTON — Family members of more than two dozen Americans who are being held hostage or detained abroad are calling on President Joe Biden to ramp up efforts to try to bring them home.
The criticism of the administration comes as 17 missionaries from the U.S. and Canada are being held hostage in Haiti after they were kidnapped this month by the 400 Mawozo gang. The group’s leader has threatened to kill them if their ransom demand for $1 million per hostage is not met.
The families who signed the open letter to Biden — whose relatives have been held in other countries — said that they wonder every day how much longer their loved ones “must endure their captivity, not knowing when they will return home.”
They said that they participated on a call with Secretary of State Antony Blinken in February in which the administration, they said, told them that they would prioritize securing the freedom of their family members.
But, eight months later, the families say that nothing has changed.
“We have not been able to meet with you or even with your National Security Advisor to discuss our loved ones’ captivity, which leads us to believe that your administration is not prioritizing negotiations and other methods to secure their release,” said the letter released by the James W. Foley Foundation, named after the late U.S. journalist James Foley who was held hostage for nearly two years and was ultimately brutally murdered by the Islamic State terrorist group.
The families also said that when they have met with officials, they feel as if “we are being kept in the dark about what the U.S. government intends to do to free our loved ones.”
Because their family members are Americans, they said in the letter that it’s the U.S. government’s responsibility to rescue them.
The letter was signed by families whose relatives are either detained or being held hostage in countries like Afghanistan, China, Cuba, Egypt, Iran, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela. The letter was signed by the mother of Trevor Reed, who was sentenced last year to nine years in prison on charges of assaulting a police officer after a night of heavy drinking in Moscow, which he and his family deny. The family of Paul Whelan, who was also sentenced last year to 16 years in prison after being accused of espionage, a charge that he has denied, also signed the letter.
Rebecca Shabad is a congressional reporter for NBC News, based in Washington.
Abigail Williams is a producer and reporter for NBC News covering the State Department.
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