Kidnapping missionaries are being blamed on gangs with abducted past members

Police on Sunday accused a notorious Haitian gang of kidnapping and killings. They had abducted 17 missionaries from an American-based group. Five children, including a 2-year old, were thought to have been among the kidnappers.

Kidnapping missionaries are being blamed on gangs with abducted past members

The 400 Mawozo gang abducted the group from Ganthier, a village east of Port-au-Prince. Frantz Champagne, a Haitian police inspector, told The Associated Press. Five priests and two nuns were kidnapped by the gang earlier in Haiti this year.

According to authorities, the gang's name roughly translated to 400 "inexperienced men" and controls Croix-des-Bouquets, which includes Ganthier. They are responsible for kidnappings, carjackings, and extorting business owners.

Christian Aid Ministries, Ohio, said that the kidnapped group included 16 U.S. citizens as well as one Canadian citizen. This makes a total of five children and seven women, and five men. According to the organization, they were visiting an orphanage.

Christian Aid Ministries released a statement saying, "Join us as we pray for those being held hostage by the kidnappers, their families, friends, and churches of those affected," "As an organisation, we pledge this situation to God and trust that he will see it through.

Haiti is again facing a spike of gang-related kidnappings. This has been happening since President Jovenel Moise was shot to death at his private residence July 7, and after a 7.2-magnitude earthquake in August killed more than 2,200 people.

According to the annual report, the missionary group provides Bible classes, runs an emergency clinic, aids orphans, and distributes seeds for farmers among other activities in Haiti.

According to the last year's report, American personnel had returned to Haiti from a nine-month absence due to "political unrest". The report also noted the "uncertainty" and "dificulties" that can arise from such instability.

On Sunday, an AP team visited the orphanage of the group in Ganthier. There were a few children seen walking through a backyard. It was confirmed by a security guard that this is the same place where the kidnapped missionaries went before being abducted. At the request of the AP, the guard called the pastor of the orphanage, but he refused to comment and said only that he would leave the situation as it is.

A Haitian police wanted poster was issued for Wilson Joseph, the gang's leader. He faces murder, attempted murder and theft of autos, as well as the hijacking trucks transporting goods. He is known as "Lanmo Sanjou," which translates to "death doesn’t know when it’s coming".

Joseph could not immediately be reached for comment but has uploaded videos detailing the crimes that the gang is accused of in recent years.

Wilson claimed that the incident in which the gang attacked a bus carrying passengers and killed an infant was not their fault as the driver of the bus refused to stop. A more recent video shows him holding a bottle containing alcohol and being surrounded by heavily armed men. Another June video shows people fleeing a church as gunfire broke out outside. The gang is accused of setting fire to cars and raiding the area.

Under anonymity, a senior U.S. official said that the United States was in contact with Haitian authorities to resolve the matter.

Christian Aid Ministries was under scrutiny after a former worker in Haiti was convicted in Ohio of felony sexual abuse of minors. Jeriah Mast (40) is currently serving a nine year sentence in an Ohio prison. According to The Daily Record newspaper, Ohio, Mast also molested at most 30 boys in Haiti during the course of his sentence.

In a May 2020 statement, the religious organization stated that it had reached an agreement with victims in relation to a case of sexual abuse in Petit Goave. Other victims were also provided with $420,000 in restitution.

Authorities say ransoms were demanded by gangs for ransoms that range from just a few hundred dollars to over $1 million amid the increase in kidnappings.

A deacon was murdered last month in front of a Port-au-Prince church. His wife was also kidnapped. This is just one of many people who were abducted over the past few months.

According to a report by the United Nations Integrated Office (BINUH) last month, 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.

As they become more powerful, gangs are accused of kidnapping children, doctors, officers, and busloads upon passengers. A man claiming to be the leader of the 400 Mawozo gang told a radio station in April that they had kidnapped five priests, two nuns, and three family members of one priest that month. Later, they were released.

Haitians have been forced to make detours to avoid gang-related violence and kidnappings. Others simply stay home. This means that Charles Pierre, a Port-au-Prince moto-taxi driver, has less money to support his family of children.

He said, "People aren't going out on the streets." "We are unable to find people to transport."

Monday's protest will be held to condemn the country's insecurity.

The missionaries were kidnapped just days after U.S. officials visited Haiti. They promised more resources to Haiti's National Police, including $15 million to reduce gang violence. This year, thousands of Haitians have been forced into temporary shelters that are increasingly unsafe.