Haiti gang demands $1M each to kidnap US missionaries

A gang kidnapped 17 missionary members from the U.S. and demanded $1 million per person. However, authorities weren't sure if that ransom included five children being held.

Haiti gang demands $1M each to kidnap US missionaries

The official was not authorized to speak with the media. He claimed that someone from 400 Mawozo gang demanded the money Saturday, in a call to a leader within the ministry group, shortly after the abduction.

The $1 million per person demand was confirmed by a person who spoke with Christian Aid Ministries. This information was first reported in The Wall Street Journal. Due to the sensitive nature of the situation, the person spoke under anonymity.

According to Tuesday's statement by the organization, the age range of the adults is 18 to 48 and that of the children is 8 to 15 years. 16 of the abductees were Americans, and one Canadian.

The Ohio-based ministry stated that "this group of workers has been dedicated to minister throughout poverty stricken Haiti." They also said that they had recently worked on a project to rebuild homes damaged in the magnitude-7.2 earthquake on August 14.

According to the organization, the group was returning from visiting an orphanage and was then abducted.

Workers responded to the recent wave kidnappings by staging a strike. They shut down schools, businesses and public transport starting Monday. Haiti's already fragile economy was hit hard by the work stoppage. Unions and other groups pledged to keep the shutdown going indefinitely.

Dozens of protestors marched through Titanyen on Tuesday, demanding the release and freedom of the missionaries. Many carried signs reading "Free the Americans" or "No to Kidnapping!"

They built our schools. They pay our bills," Zachary Celus stated. They do everything for us. We can't do any more because they kidnapped us."

In the meantime, an ongoing shortage of fuel grew worse and businesses blamed gangs who blocked roads and gas distribution terminals.

As hundreds of motorcycles zoomed along the streets of Port-au-Prince, the drivers shouted, "If fuel is not available, we're going all out to burn it!"

One protest was held near the residence of the prime minister, and police used tear gas to disperse a group demanding fuel.

Jen Psaki, White House press secretary, stated Tuesday in Washington that the FBI was part of a coordinated U.S. government effort to liberate the missionaries. The American Embassy in Port-au-Prince coordinated with local officials as well as the families of hostages.

"We know that these groups target U.S citizens who they assume are able to pay ransoms even though that is not true," she said, noting that the government had warned citizens to avoid Haiti.

The U.S. has a long-standing policy of not negotiating with hostage takers. Psaki declined details.

This kidnapping was one of the most serious in recent years. As Haiti tries to recover after President Jovenel Moise's assassination on July 7, and the earthquake that claimed more than 2,200 lives, the gangs in Haiti have become more brazen.

Jean-Louis Abaki was a motocab driver who took part in Monday's strike and urged the authorities of the Western Hemisphere’s poorest country to take action. He stated that if Prime Minister Ariel Henry or National Police Chief Leon Charles wish to remain in power, they must give security to the people.

According to a report by the United Nations Integrated Office Haiti, at least 328 kidnappings were reported in Haiti to the National Police within the first eight months in 2021. This compares with a total 234 in 2020.

Gangs are accused of kidnapping doctors, schoolchildren, and bus passengers. Ransom demands can range from a few hundred to millions of dollars.

Ned Price, spokesperson for the U.S. State Department, stated that American officials are in constant contact with Haiti’s National Police and missionary group as well as hostage's families.

He said that "this is something we have treated with the highest priority since Saturday" and that officials are trying to find a quick solution.

Christian Aid Ministries stated that the kidnapped group consisted of six women, six men, and five children. The sign at Berlin's headquarters, Ohio, stated that it was closed because of the kidnapping situation.

Marcus Yoder, the executive director of Amish & Mennonite Heritage Center in Millersburg, Ohio, stated that news of the kidnappings quickly spread in Holmes County, Ohio. This is the hub of conservative Mennonites and Amish.

Christian Aid Ministries is supported conservative Mennonite, Amish, and other groups that are part the Anabaptist tradition.

According to Steven Nolt of Elizabethtown College, Pennsylvania, the organization was established in the 1980s. It began work in Haiti in the latter part of that decade. He said that the group employs a year-round staff to assist in Haiti and other countries and ships medical, religious, and school supplies around the globe.