17 American and Canadian Missionaries Kidnapped in Haiti by Local Gang, Police Say (UPDATE)

Seventeen American and Canadian missionaries were kidnapped in Haiti Saturday while traveling from a Croix des Bouquets area orphanage to Titanyen.

A woman walks in Croix des Bouquets

Image via Getty

A woman walks in Croix des Bouquets

UPDATED 10/19, 10:55 a.m. ET: The gang responsible for kidnapping the missionaries wants a $1 million ransom for each hostage, CNN reports.

Haitian Justice Minister Liszt Quitel told the outlet that the “400 Mawozo” gang made the demands during a call with staff for Christian Aid Ministries, and that negotiations, with the help of the FBI and police negotiators, are ongoing.

“The FBI is part of a coordinated U.S. government effort to get the Americans involved to safety. Due to operational considerations, no further information is available at this time,” a spokesperson for the FBI told CNN.

    See original story below. 

    Seventeen missionaries—made up of 16 Americans and 1 Canadian—were kidnapped in Haiti Saturday, and police believe a local gang was the culprit, CNN reports.

    The gang is now the center of an investigation, according to Haiti’s security forces. Haiti’s foreign minister, Claude Joseph, told CNN that officials are in touch with the U.S. State Department.

    “The group of sixteen U.S. citizens and one Canadian citizen includes five men, seven women, and five children,” a statement from Christian Aid Ministries read. “… We are seeking God’s direction for a resolution, and authorities are seeking ways to help.”

    The group visited an orphanage in the Croix des Bouquets area before traveling to Titanyen, and were reportedly abducted between the two locales. 

    “Please pray for us,” one American man reportedly wrote in a WhatsApp group, according to The Washington Post. “We are being held hostage, they kidnapped our driver. Pray pray pray. We don’t know where they are taking us.”

    A U.S. State Department spokesperson has shared that they are “aware of these reports and have nothing additional to offer at this time,” while a senior official reportedly said the FBI and State Department officials are working to locate and secure those missing. A Global Affairs Canada spokesperson told CNN that local authorities and “implicated NGOs” are working to find out information, too.

    The missionaries were allegedly abducted by 400 Mawozo, a gang that targets religious groups in the town of Ganthier. Gang members allegedly taken part in mass kidnappings from buses and cars in recent months and groups that monitor kidnappings said they think the missionaries are being held at Croix-des-Bouquets. Haitian government officials could not immediately confirm the kidnappings

    Gédéon Jean, director of the Center for Analysis and Research in Human Rights in Port-au-Prince, estimates the gang is responsible for 80 percent of Haiti’s kidnappings in 2021’s third quarter. The gang’s name is Haitian Creole for 400 simpletons, and authorities attempted to negotiate with jailed member Joly “Yonyon” Germine, the Post reports.

    400 Mawozo kidnapped five priests and two nuns back in April, and eventually released all of them. The Catholic clerics dealt with a lack of food and poor quality meals, among other things, during their three weeks in captivity. 

    At least 395 kidnappings took place in Haiti during the first six months of this year, compared to 88 at the same time last year, according to the Center for Analysis and Research in Human Rights in Port-au-Prince. Abductions fell following the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, but rose to a reported 73 in August and 117 in September.

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