Port-au-Prince, HAITI- Notorious Haitian gang 400 Mawozo, has demanded a $17 million ransom- $1 million per hostage to free a Christian missionaries group that was kidnapped on Saturday.
The group was abducted while traveling outside Port-au-Prince. The victims include 16 Americans and One Canadian, ranging from ages 18 to 48 and the children range in age from 8 months to 15 years old, according to the missionaries’ Christian Aid Ministries based in Ohio.
Justice Minister Liszt Quitel
Haitian Justice Minister Liszt Quitel said both Haitian police negotiators and the FBI are advising the missionary group on how to proceed and that negotiations are ongoing. FBI agents are on the ground in Haiti assisting with the investigation but are not leading the negotiations, nor have they spoken directly with the kidnappers, he said.
“The FBI is part of a coordinated U.S. government effort to get the Americans involved to safety.
The gang has locations where they usually keep their hostages so that they can feel the hostages are safe. They feel comfortable keeping them there,” Quitel said.
“The kidnappers have been warned about harming the hostages and what may be the consequences for them (if that were to happen). But they are not swayed by those warnings,” said Quitel, adding that the kidnappers are sticking to their demands.
Canada is also collaborating with U.S. and Haitian authorities.
It is reported that the gang 400 Mawozo has reportedly targeted religious groups and has been increasingly conducting mass kidnappings. In April a group of ten people in Croix-des-Bouquets, including seven Catholic clergy members, resulted in a three-day shutdown of Roman Catholic institutions across the country to protest the kidnapping. The gang demanded a $1 million ransom for the group, who were eventually released, but it’s not clear if the gang was paid or how much.
It is estimated that some 628 kidnappings have been reported in Haiti since January, according to data collected by the Center for Analysis and Research in Human Rights, including a 300 percent rise since July. The number of kidnappings reported to Haiti’s National Police this year is lower: 328 through August, according to a U.N. report.
This comes amid an unprecedented wave of kidnappings in the deeply troubled country, which remains in turmoil following the assassination of Haitian president Jovenel Moise in July, as well as a devastating earthquake in August.
The growing crisis in Haiti has also become a major issue for the United States. Thousands of Haitian migrants arrived at the U.S.-Mexico border last month, but many were deported to their home country shortly afterward.