Thu | Dec 9, 2021

Negotiations drag on over missionaries kidnapped in Haiti

Published:Wednesday | October 20, 2021 | 10:04 AM
A custom sign stands outside Christian Aid Ministries in Titanyen, north of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Tuesday, October 19, 2021. A gang kidnapped 17 members of the US-based missionary group on October 16, demanding $1 million ransom per person, although authorities were not clear whether that amount included the five children being held, a top Haitian official said Tuesday. (AP Photo/Joseph Odelyn)

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Negotiations stretched into a fourth day seeking the return of 17 members of a United States-based missionary group kidnapped over the weekend by a violent gang that is demanding $1 million ransom per person.

The group includes five children whose ages range from eight months to 15 years, although authorities were not clear whether the ransom amount included them, a top Haitian official said Tuesday.

Sixteen of the abductees are Americans and one Canadian.

The abduction is one of at least 119 kidnappings recorded in Haiti for the first half of October, according to the Center of Analysis and Research of Human Rights, a local nonprofit group.

It said a Haitian driver was abducted along with the missionaries, bringing the total to 18 people taken by the gang.

The Haitian official, who was not authorised to speak to the press, told The Associated Press that someone from the 400 Mawozo gang made the ransom demand Saturday in a call to a leader of the Ohio-based Christian Aid Ministries shortly after the abduction.

“This group of workers has been committed to minister throughout poverty-stricken Haiti,” the Ohio group said, adding that the missionaries worked most recently on a project to help rebuild homes lost in a magnitude-7.2 earthquake that struck southwestern Haiti on August 14.

The group was returning from visiting an orphanage when it was abducted, the organization said.

Responding to the recent wave of kidnappings, workers staged a protest strike that shuttered businesses, schools and public transportation starting Monday.

The work stoppage was a new blow to Haiti's anaemic economy.

Unions and other groups vowed to continue the shutdown indefinitely.

In a peaceful demonstration Tuesday north of Port-au-Prince, dozens of people walked through the streets of Titanyen demanding the release of the missionaries. Some carried signs that read “Free the Americans” and “No to Kidnapping!” and explained that the missionaries helped pay bills and build roads and schools.

“They do a lot for us,” said Beatrice Jean.

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