An armed gang demands a ransom of $ 17 million for a group of American and Canadian missionaries kidnapped in Haiti last week.
According to the Haitian Minister of Justice Liszt Quitel, the 400 renowned gangs of Mawozo are demanding $ 1 million for each captive.
Watch: Haitian Prime Minister kicked out of official ceremony after armed gangs fired in the air
The Mawozo gang dominates the town of Ganthier, on the eastern outskirts of the country’s capital, Port-au-Prince, where a group of 16 Americans and a Canadian were kidnapped on Saturday while on their way to an orphanage.
According to the Center for Analysis and Research on Human Rights, a Haitian non-profit organization, at least 628 kidnappings have taken place since January, with 29 of the victims being foreign nationals. The number of events increased by 300% in September compared to July.
The hostages range from 8 months to 15 years old, according to Christian Aid Ministries, the charity that sponsors missionary activities in Haiti.
Adults in the group are between 18 and 48 years old.
Earlier today, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the FBI was part of a concerted US government operation to bring Americans to safety.
According to a source close to the Biden administration, agents arrived in Haiti the day before to help the State Department secure the release of the missionaries.
Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that “we will do everything possible to help resolve the situation and we have focused tirelessly on this within the administration”.
In April, 400 Mawozo kidnapped and detained 10 people, including two French clergymen, for 20 days at the same location.
In August, the United States issued a red warning for Haiti, advising Americans not to travel to the Caribbean country due to rampant kidnappings, crime and civil unrest.
Kidnappings in Haiti have more than quadrupled in the past year, as gangs have grown in number and strength, leaving an already understaffed police force unable to cope.
(With contributions from agencies)