Diaspora

Officials: Missionaries in Haiti escaped their kidnappers – Spectrum News 1

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OHIO — The remaining 12 hostages from Ohio-based Christian Aid Ministries who returned home last week after being kidnapped from a gang in Haiti had escaped and were not freed, CAM officials confirmed Monday during a press conference. 
CAM Spokesperson Weston Showalter shed some more details on how the hostages were kidnapped and what happened during their two-month captivity. 
On Saturday, Oct. 16, the 17 missionaries were heading back to their base around 1 p.m. from an orphanage in Haiti, said Showalter. About 5 to 10 minutes into their trip back, they saw a roadblock up ahead. To avoid it, they attempted to turn around when a truck sped after them, passed their van and blocked them from going further. Another car came up behind them, preventing them from reversing. 
400 Mawozo gang members then escorted them out of the area and were taken to a small house and placed in a small room, approximately 10 by 12 feet, Showalter said.
Their sleeping conditions were poor, having a large group of people in a tight space. There were some mattresses, but many of them were forced to stand, said Showalter. The kidnappers would provide them with food throughout the day, such as Haitian breakfast spaghetti and hard boiled eggs, scrambled eggs or other foods, but not in large amounts. Many of them said they faced hunger. However, the children got a large amount of baby food, and the hostages said at times, the kidnappers would talk with the children. 
There were five children in the group of 16 U.S. citizens and one Canadian. 
For a small amount of time each day, the missionaries were also allowed outside. 
They also received clean drinking water — not enough at times for the group — and some hygiene materials, such as toothbrushes, but their bathing water was highly contaminated, at times creating "festering sores" for some of the hostages. 
Despite the missionaries being threatened, none of them were physically hurt, Showalter said. 
Two hostages were freed in November and three others were let go in early December. The group then decided to strategically come up with a plan to escape. After lengthy prayers and singing, they felt they had finally gotten an opening to leave.
On the night of Wednesday, Dec. 15, the group packed up their belongings, put on their shoes and stacked their mattresses in a corner in preparation. When night came, they snuck out the door in a single file line and didn’t get caught despite guards being near the area, Showalter said.
Showalter said the group traveled through thick brush for "up to 10 miles" before daylight came. Eventually, they found someone who was able to assist them in making a call for help.
"They were finally free," Showalter said. 
The missionaries told Showalter that despite all that they went through, they continually told the kidnappers that they forgave them. 
Later that day, all of them flew on a Coast Guard flight to Florida and were reunited with the other hostages who were released. 
As for the ransom the gang asked for to release the missionaries — $1 million per person — CAM officials said they couldn’t comment on it yet. 
Showalter said the hostages are doing well, all things considered.
As for their placement in Haiti, which has been a part of the organization’s mission for more than 30 years trying to help the Haitian people, CAM officials said they don’t want it to come to an end, but there "there will be a pause no doubt."
 
 

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