the essential About fifteen American religious missionaries were kidnapped on Saturday 15 October at midday by a gang in a peri-urban area east of Port-au-Prince.
“The well-being and safety of American citizens abroad is one of our top priorities at the State Department. We are aware of this information and have nothing to add at this time,” commented a spokesperson for the US government. On the morning of Saturday, the gang, called “400 mawozo”, hijacked several vehicles from the highways they control, abducting American citizens as well as a still undetermined number of Haitian citizens.
The missionaries and their families were returning from a visit to an orphanage located about 30 kilometers east of the Haitian capital, a security source reported. For some of these members of the Ohio-based religious organization, this is their first trip to Haiti.
Frequent kidnappings and ubiquitous gangs
In April, ten people including two French clerics were kidnapped by this gang in the same region. Released after 20 days of captivity, Father Michel Briand explained that they had “been in the wrong place at the wrong time”, considering that the members of the gang did not plan their kidnapping at the time.
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The armed bands, which for years have controlled the poorest districts of the Haitian capital, have extended their power to Port-au-Prince and its surroundings where they are increasing the number of villainous kidnappings. More than 600 cases were identified in the first three quarters of 2021 against 231 at the same period in 2020, according to the Center for Analysis and Research in Human Rights, based in the Haitian capital.
Demanding ransoms sometimes exceeding a million dollars, gangs do not hesitate to demand decades of wages from the families of their victims living below the poverty line. The vast majority of women kidnapped by criminal gangs are sexually abused and victims of gang rape, deplore human rights organizations which denounce the inaction of the Haitian police.
Haitians protest against insecurity
Before the kidnappings were committed on Saturday, professional associations and businesses in Port-au-Prince had already called for an indefinite strike from Monday, to protest against the climate of growing insecurity.
To read also: Haiti: the assassination of its president plunges the island into the unknown
For years, a deep political crisis has paralyzed the socio-economic development of Haiti. The assassination on July 7 of President Jovenel Moïse by an armed commando in his private residence further plunged the Caribbean country into uncertainty.