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Haiti in new crisis due to kidnapping of a group of Americans

Haiti in new crisis due to kidnapping of a group of Americans

Haiti’s fragile government faces a new crisis on Sunday after the kidnapping of a group of missionaries and their families, mostly Americans, by an armed gang near Port-au-Prince.

"The group of seventeen US citizens and one Canadian citizen comprises five men, seven women, and five children"said a statement released Sunday by Christian Aid ministries.

"Join us in praying for the hostages, kidnappers and the families, friends and churches of those affected"added the organization based in the US state of Ohio.

Oenengés Shaitianas called for the release of these people kidnapped on Saturday as they moved to the east of the capital, where armed gangs proliferate that take advantage of a security vacuum and a political crisis aggravated by the assassination in July of President Jovenel Moïse.

"The police are unable to confront the gangs that organize more and more and control more and more territories, in the metropolitan area (of Port-au-Prince) but also in the cities of the interior of the country", lamented Gédéon Jean, director of the Center for Analysis and Research in Human Rights.

"Nature abhors a vacuum, that’s why gangs take advantage of it to strengthen themselves"he added, explaining the proliferation of criminal gangs by "the absence of the state".

Asked by AFP, the Haitian police did not want to comment.

The religious organization of which the missionaries are members said in its statement that they were returning from a visit to an orphanage when they were kidnapped along with members of their families.

The missionaries were left in the hands of the gang "400 Mawozo", which for months has been carrying out kidnappings and robberies in the area between Port-au-Prince and the border with the Dominican Republic, the source said.

Some of them were on their first trip to Haiti.

One of the abductees sent a desperate message to a WhatsApp group when the incident occurred, the US newspaper The Washington Post said.

"Pray for us please! We are kidnapped, our driver was kidnapped. Pray, pray, pray. We don’t know where they lead us", it reads in the message according to the newspaper.

– Increasing insecurity – The US State Department did not offer details about the kidnapping. A spokesperson told AFP only: "The well-being and safety of U.S. citizens abroad is one of our top priorities".

"We know this information and we have nothing to add at the moment", he stressed.

The United States classifies Haiti as a country in the red zone and advises its citizens not to go there, mainly due to the numerous kidnappings, which "usually include U.S. citizens".

Before the abductions occurred on Saturday, professional associations and companies in Port-au-Prince called an indefinite strike from Monday to protest against the climate of growing insecurity.

In April, ten people, including two French religious, were kidnapped for 20 days by the gang "400 mawozo" in the same region.

Armed gangs, which have controlled the capital’s poorer districts for years, have extended their power to the outskirts of Port-au-Prince, where the number of kidnappings for extortion is on the rise.

More than 600 cases of these crimes were registered in the first three quarters of 2021, against 231 in the same period in 2020, according to the Center for Analysis and Research in Human Rights.

Gangs demand decades of wages from families living below the poverty line.


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