As many as 17 American missionaries, including women and children, were reportedly kidnapped in Haiti over the weekend, according to a message sent to several religious missions.
The missionaries were on their way home from building an orphanage when the incident occurred, the Ohio-based Christian Aid Ministries said in a message.
“This is a special prayer alert,” said a message on WhatsApp, a screenshot of which was seen by The Epoch Times. “Pray that the gang members would come to repentance.” The message also said that women and children were among those kidnapped.
The 400 Mawozo gang kidnapped the group—which also included some elderly people—in Ganthier, a commune that lies east of the capital of Port-au-Prince, Haitian police inspector Frantz Champagne told The Associated Press. The gang, whose name roughly translates to 400 “inexperienced men,” controls the Croix-des-Bouquets area that includes Ganthier, where they carry out kidnappings and carjackings and extort business owners, according to authorities.
The Christian group’s message stated that the mission’s field director is now working with the U.S. Embassy in Haiti. No other details were immediately available.
The U.S. State Department, in a statement to media outlets, confirmed it was aware of reports about the kidnapping.
“The welfare and safety of U.S. citizens abroad is one of the highest priorities of the Department of State,” the spokesperson said in a statement, without offering additional comment. Department officials didn’t immediately respond to a request by The Epoch Times for comment.
The Washington Post and CNN first reported on the kidnapping.
The U.S. Embassy in Haiti hasn’t responded to a request for comment. Christian Aid Ministries also didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Earlier this month, the United Nations Integrated Office in Haiti said that kidnappings have sharply risen in Haiti in recent months after the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moise and a 7.2 magnitude earthquake.
Helen La Lime, special representative and head of the United Nations Integrated Office in Haiti, said elections have been postponed again as “insecurity has become rampant in Port-au-Prince, as kidnappings are once again on the rise and gangs have extended their control over large swaths of the city.”
“Political turmoil, the surge in gang violence, deteriorating socioeconomic conditions—including food insecurity and malnutrition—all contribute to the worsening of the humanitarian situation,” the mission said in a recent report on the poverty-stricken Caribbean country. “An overstretched and under-resourced police force alone cannot address the security ills of Haiti.”
At least 328 kidnapping victims have been reported to Haiti’s National Police this year, an increase from 234 in all of 2020, according to the report.
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.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
From The Epoch Times