Haiti Gang Leader Threatens to Kill 17 US and Canadian Captives

Lorenz Duchamps
By Lorenz Duchamps
October 22, 2021Americas
Haiti Gang Leader Threatens to Kill 17 US and Canadian Captives
People protest for the release of kidnapped missionaries near the Ohio-based Christian Aid Ministries headquarters in Titanyen, north of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on Oct. 19, 2021. (Joseph Odelyn/AP Photo)

A man who identified himself as the leader of a notorious Haitian gang threatened police on Thursday that he will kill 17 abducted missionaries—mostly Americans—if he doesn’t receive a $1 million ransom per hostage.

“I swear by thunder that if I don’t get what I’m asking for, I will put a bullet in the heads of these Americans,” said Wilson Joseph, the suspected leader of the gang dubbed “400 Mawozo,” according to a video that was shared on social media.

Haitian Justice Minister Liszt Quitel said earlier this week that the gang demanded a total of $17 million in order to set free the 17 captives—seven women, five men, five children, all U.S. citizens except one Canadian.

The group of missionaries were on their way home from building an orphanage when the gang abducted them, Ohio-based Christian Aid Ministries said in a message. The ages of the kidnapped children reportedly range between just 8 months and 15 years. The missionaries are affiliated with the Christian Aid Ministries.

Joseph also threatened Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry and Leon Charles, the country’s national police chief, for killing several gang members. The leader spoke in front of what appeared to be open coffins with members of his gang who were recently killed laying inside.

“Leon Charles made me cry, gentlemen. When it was my turn, I cried my eyes out, and when I make you cry, I will make you cry tears of blood,” the gang leader said.

NTD News was unable to independently confirm the veracity of this video or when it was made, although a senior U.S. State Department official told reporters that the video was legitimate, news agency Reuters reported.

“If you are a kidnapper, your job is to say those kinds of things,” the official said. “We need to work with our Haitian law enforcement partners and the families and the institutions to try and move this process forward to a safe resolution.”

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 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.

The recent abduction, on top of soaring crime rates, inflation, and other issues in Haiti, have sparked widespread anger from the public, prompting violent, sometimes deadly, protests.

NTD Photo
People protest carrying a banner with a message that reads in Creole: “No to kidnappings, no to violence against women ! Long live Christian Aid Ministries,” demanding the release of kidnapped missionaries, in Titanyen, north of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on Oct. 19, 2021. (Joseph Odelyn/AP Photo)

400 Mawozo

The 400 Mawozo gang began as a group of small-time local thieves and rose to become one of Haiti’s most feared gangs, controlling a swathe of countryside east of the capital Port-au-Prince, according to security experts.

Haitian gangs have steadily expanded their territory in recent years, and have grown more brazen since the July assassination of President Jovenel Moise.

Their leaders—mostly notably Jimmy Cherizier, leader of a gang coalition called G9—have taken on increasingly public roles, offering extensive interviews broadcast online and at times publicly threatening politicians.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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