State Department is prioritizing return of missionaries from Ohio group kidnapped in Haiti – cleveland.com

This Sunday, Oct. 17, 2021 photo shows the logo for Christian Aid Ministries in Berlin, Ohio, on a vehicle. A group of 17 missionaries including children has been kidnapped by a gang in Haiti, according to a voice message sent to various religious missions by the organization. The message from Ohio-based Christian Aid Ministries said the missionaries were on their way home from building an orphanage. (AP Photo/Tom E. Puskar) APAP
WASHINGTON, D. C. — The Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs told U.S. Sen. Rob Portman earlier this week that he’s been personally involved in trying to recover 15 Christian missionaries from an Ohio organization who were kidnapped in Haiti six weeks ago.
During a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, Assistant Secretary of State Brian Nichols told the Republican U.S. senator from Ohio that he’s “in contact with our embassy in Port-au-Prince on the situation every day.”
Nichols said kidnapping for ransom in Haiti is a “grave” issue, and 41 U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents have been kidnapped for ransom in Haiti this year.
“The embassy country team, including U.S. law enforcement agencies, are cooperating with Haitian police authorities to support a resolution of this case,” Nichols said Tuesday. “It is one of deep concern. We saw the release of two U.S. citizens who had been kidnapped in connection with that case, and we hope that there will be a rapid resolution and favorable resolution for the remainder of those who have been kidnapped.”
Seventeen missionaries affiliated with Holmes-county-based Christian Aid Ministries were kidnapped in October, and two were released last month. Portman said a criminal gang called 400 Mawazo is responsible, and the remaining 15 hostages include children.
Portman said he discussed the kidnapping with FBI Director Christopher Wray “and made sure that we’re doing everything we can, from the law enforcement point of view, to resolve this issue.
“We will continue to help however we can in terms of expressing our deep concern, but we have to rely on people on the ground doing the right thing and making sure this is a priority,” said Portman.
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