A notorious Haitian gang accused of abducting 17 missionaries, most of them Americans, demanded $17 million in ransom for the kidnapped individuals’ release, according to multiple reports.
Haitian Justice Minister Liszt Quitel said the gang dubbed “400 Mawozo” demands $1 million per person in order to set the missionaries free, the Wall Street Journal reported, which quoted Quitel as saying.
The gang kidnapped the group—seven women, five men, five children, all U.S. citizens except one Canadian—on Oct. 16 in Ganthier, a commune that lies east of the capital of Port-au-Prince, Haitian police inspector Frantz Champagne told The Associated Press.
The missionaries were on their way home from building an orphanage when the incident occurred, Ohio-based Christian Aid Ministries said in a message. The ages of the abducted children reportedly range between just 8 months and 15 years. The missionaries are affiliated with the Christian Aid Ministries.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said during a press briefing on Monday that the U.S. government is helping with the rescue efforts.
“The FBI is part of a coordinated U.S. government effort to get the U.S. citizens involved to safety,” Psaki said. “Due to operational considerations, we’re not going to go into too much detail on that, but can confirm their engagement.”
Psaki noted that President Joe Biden also had been briefed on the audacious abduction and is receiving regular updates on the investigation conducted by FBI and U.S. State Department officials to bring the missionaries back home safely.
In recent years, the Oct. 16 abduction is the largest reported incident of its kind in the Caribbean country, with Haitian gangs growing more brazen and abductions spiking as the country is attempting to recover from a magnitude 7.2 earthquake that struck southern Haiti on Aug. 14 and killed more than 2,200 people.
In April, a man who claimed to be the gang’s leader told a radio station that it was responsible for abducting five priests, two nuns, and three relatives of one of the priests that month. They were all later released again.
At least 328 kidnappings were reported to Haiti’s National Police in the first eight months of 2021, compared with a total of 234 for all of 2020, said a report last month by the United Nations Integrated Office in Haiti.
The Department of State currently lists Haiti as a “do not travel” country, noting high crime, kidnappings, civil unrest, and COVID-19.
“Kidnapping is widespread and victims regularly include U.S. citizens,” the agency warns on its website. “Kidnappers may use sophisticated planning or take advantage of unplanned opportunities, and even convoys have been attacked.
“Kidnapping cases often involve ransom negotiations and U.S. citizen victims have been physically harmed during kidnappings. Victim’s families have paid thousands of dollars to rescue their family members.”
Jack Phillips and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
From NTD News