Haiti gang kidnapped missionaries: police – Illawarra Mercury

A gang blamed for kidnapping five priests and two nuns earlier this year in Haiti is now accused of kidnapping 17 missionaries from a US-based organisation, including a two-year-old, police say.
The 400 Mawozo gang kidnapped the group – which also included some elderly people – in Ganthier, a commune that lies east of the capital of Port-au-Prince, Haitian police inspector Frantz Champagne told the Associated Press.
The gang, whose name roughly translates to 400 “inexperienced men,” controls the Croix-des-Bouquets area that includes Ganthier, where they carry out kidnappings and carjackings and extort business owners, according to authorities.
Haiti is once again struggling with a spike in gang-related kidnappings that had diminished in recent months.
The missionaries were on their way home on Saturday from building an orphanage, according to a message from Ohio-based Christian Aid Ministries sent to various religious missions.
“This is a special prayer alert,” the one-minute message said.
“Pray that the gang members would come to repentance.”
The message said 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 officials were aware of the reports on the kidnapping.
“The welfare and safety of US citizens abroad is 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 government is in touch with Haitian authorities to try to resolve the case.
Gangs have demanded ransoms ranging from a couple hundred dollars to more than $US1 million ($A1.3 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 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.
Gangs have been accused of kidnapping schoolchildren, doctors, police officers, busloads of passengers and others as they grow more powerful.
In April, a man who claimed to be the gang leader of the 400 Mawozo told a radio station that they were the ones responsible for kidnapping five priests, two nuns and three relatives of one of the priests that month.
They were later released.
A protest is scheduled for Monday to decry the country’s lack of security.
“Political turmoil, the surge in gang violence, deteriorating socio-economic conditions – including food insecurity and malnutrition – all contribute to the worsening of the humanitarian situation,” BINUH said in its report.
“An overstretched and under-resourced police force alone cannot address the security ills of Haiti.”
On Friday, the UN Security Council voted unanimously to extend the UN political mission in Haiti.
Australian Associated Press
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