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Bus full of American missionaries and children reported kidnapped by gang in Haiti

Bus full of American missionaries and children reported kidnapped by gang in Haiti
US government says it is aware of reports as Christian group sends warning to religious missions

A group of up to 17 missionaries and their families has been kidnapped by gang members in Haiti’s capital of Port-au-Prince, a voice message sent to various religious missions has warned.

Die VSA-based Christian Aid Ministries, which claimed it had direct knowledge of the incident, said that the kidnapping occurred when the missionaries were on their way home from building an orphanage.

“This is a special prayer alert,” the one-minute message said. “Pray that the gang members would come to repentance.”

A US government spokesperson told the Associated Press that officials were aware of the reports but declined to provide further comment.

“The welfare and safety of US citizens abroad is one of the highest priorities of the Department of State," hulle het gesê.

A source in Haiti’s security services told CNN that the group consists of 14 adults and three minors. More information is expected later on Sunday. It is believed that 16 of the group are US citizens and one is Canadian.

The missionaries were traveling by vehicle to Titanyen, north of the capital Port-au-Prince, after visiting an orphanage in the Croix des Bouquets area. They were abducted along the route on Saturday.

Die Washington Post reports that one of the abducted Americans posted a call for help in a WhatsApp group as the kidnapping was occurring.

“Please pray for us!! We are being held hostage, they kidnapped our driver. Pray pray pray. We don’t know where they are taking us,” the message read.

Gang-related kidnappings are a growing problem in Haiti, with authorities saying that groups have demanded ransoms ranging from a couple of hundred dollars to more than $1m to free captives.

Some reports indicate this latest kidnapping is the work of the 400 Mawozo gang, known to operate in the same area.

“This is the type of kidnapping that 400 Mawozo do; we call it a collective kidnapping where they kidnap any entire bus or car,” Gedeon Jean, who runs the Center for Analysis and Research in Human Rights in Port-au-Prince, which monitors kidnapping in the country, vertel The Miami Herald.

Mr Jean said the gang is responsible for about 80 per cent of the kidnappings taking place in Haiti..

Ten minste 328 kidnapping victims were reported to Haiti’s National Police in the first eight months of 2021, compared with a total of 234 for all of 2020, according to a report issued last month by the UN Integrated Office in Haiti known as BINUH.

“Political turmoil, the surge in gang violence, deteriorating socioeconomic conditionsincluding food insecurity and malnutritionall contribute to the worsening of the humanitarian situation,” BINUH said in its report.

“An overstretched and under-resourced police force alone cannot address the security ills of Haiti.”

Gangs have been accused of capturing schoolchildren, dokters, and police officers, and as in the case of the missionaries, have had the audacity to take busloads of passengers in recent months.

Some incidents, such as when five priests and two nuns were kidnapped in April, have prompted protests over the lack of security in the country, which has long suffered from poverty.

The latest reported kidnapping came just days after high-level US officials visited Haiti and promised more resources for the country’s National Police, including another $15m (£11m) to help reduce gang violence.

The security situation in recent months has displaced thousands of Haitians who now live in increasingly unhygienic temporary shelters, prompting the UN Security Council to unanimously agree on Friday to extending its political mission in the country.

Bykomende verslaggewing deur AP