Activists demand release
“Please pray for us!” US missionaries kidnapped in Haiti – children also abducted
A group of US missionaries has been kidnapped in Haiti. Twelve adults and five children were abducted by criminals. A kidnapping victim managed to call for help via Whatsapp.
After the kidnapping of 17 North American missionaries and their children in Haiti, civil society organizations in the Caribbean country have called for the people to be released immediately. The situation of those affected is “diametrically opposed to human dignity”, criticized the head of the Center for the Analysis and Research of Human Rights, Gedeon Jean, based in Port-au-Prince, on Sunday.
According to information from Haitian security circles, a gang called “400 Mawozo” took control of the 17-strong group near Port-au-Prince on Saturday. According to the Christian Aid Ministries organization from the US state of Ohio, the abductees are five men, seven women and five children. 16 of them are US citizens, one is Canadian. “We ask God’s guidance for a solution,” said a message from the group. “The authorities are looking for ways to help.”
“We don’t know where they’re taking us”
According to a report on television broadcaster CNN, the group was on their way from an orphanage in Croix des Bouquets on the eastern edge of Port-au-Prince to Titanyen, north of the Haitian capital, when they were abducted by members of an armed gang.
As reported by the Washington Post, one of the kidnapping victims sent a desperate call for help via Whatsapp. “We’re being held hostage, they kidnapped our driver. We don’t know where they’re taking us,” the message said. “Please pray for us!”
Haitian security circles said that “400 Mawozo” had already committed several kidnappings and robberies in the region between Port-au-Prince and the border with the Dominican Republic in the past few months. The group controls several roads in the region. “400 Mawozo” kidnapped both Haitians and foreign nationals and demanded high ransom money.
USA in contact with authorities in Haiti
The US government is in contact with the authorities in Haiti following the abduction of missionaries from the US and Canada. You are working with them and cross-agency partners, said a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry on Sunday evening. The ministry confirmed that 16 US citizens and one person from Canada were abducted on Saturday in the region of the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince. “The well-being and safety of US citizens abroad is a top priority for the State Department,” it said.
Haiti is currently in a deep political and economic crisis. In July, President Jovenel Moïse was assassinated in the poor Caribbean country. A severe earthquake struck the south-west of the country in August. 130,000 houses were destroyed and more than 2,200 people died.
Armed gangs are adding to the insecurity in Haiti. According to the Center for Human Rights Analysis and Research, based in Port-au-Prince, more than 600 abduction cases were recorded between January and September this year, compared to 231 in the same period last year.
The gangs are demanding ransom payments, some of which exceed a million dollars. The vast majority of women abducted by criminal groups are sexually abused, as denounced by human rights organizations.
The US government issued a category four travel warning to Haiti in August issued. US citizens have been urged not to travel to the country because of the threat of “kidnapping, crime, civil unrest and Covid-19”.