American religious group says 17 missionaries were kidnapped in Haiti

Crime

The missionaries were on their way home from building an orphanage, according to Christian Aid Ministries in Ohio.

A Haitian flag MICHAEL M. SANTIAGO / GETTY

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) – A group of 17 U.S. missionaries including children were abducted by a gang in Haiti on Saturday, according to a voice message sent to various religious missions by an organization with direct knowledge of the incident.

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

“This is a special prayer alert,” the message read in one minute. “Pray that the gang members will repent.”

The message says the mission director of the mission works with the U.S. embassy and that the field director’s family and another unidentified man remained at the ministry base while everyone else visited the orphanage.

No other details were immediately available.

A spokesman for the US government said they were aware of the reports of the kidnapping.

“Welfare and security for U.S. citizens abroad is one of the State Department’s highest priorities,” the spokesman said, rejecting further comments.

Haiti is struggling again with a rise in gang-related kidnappings that had fallen after President Jovenel Moïse was fatally shot in his private residence on July 7 and after a 7.2 magnitude earthquake that struck southwestern Haiti in August, killing more than 2,200 people. people .

Bands have demanded ransoms ranging from a few hundred dollars to more than $ 1 million, according to authorities.

Last month, a deacon was killed in front of a church in the capital Port-au-Prince and his wife kidnapped, one out 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 to a total of 234 for the whole of 2020, according to a report released last month by the UN Integrated Office in Haiti known as BINUH.

Bands have been accused of kidnapping schoolchildren, doctors, police, busloads of passengers and others as they become more powerful. In April, a gang kidnapped five priests and two nuns, a move that sparked a protest similar to the one organized this Monday to dispel the lack of security in the poor country.

“Political unrest, the rise of gang violence, deteriorating socio-economic conditions – including food security and malnutrition – all contribute to the deterioration of the humanitarian situation,” BINUH said in its report. “An overworked and under-resourced police force alone cannot deal with Haiti’s security diseases.”

On Friday, the UN Security Council voted unanimously to extend the UN political mission in Haiti.

The kidnapping of the missionaries comes just days after U.S. high-ranking officials visited Haiti and promised more resources to Haiti’s national police, including an additional $ 15 million to reduce gang violence, which this year has displaced thousands of Haitians now living. in temporary shelters in increasingly unhygienic conditions.

Among those who met with Haiti’s police chief was Uzra Zeya, USA under the Secretary of State for Civil Security, Democracy and Human Rights.

“Eliminating violent gangs is crucial to Haitian stability and the security of its citizens,” she tweeted recently.

AP reporter Evens Sanon in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, contributed to this report.

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