International News

FBI Agents Sent to Haiti to Assist with Missionaries’ Release

A national police officer stands guard as people wait for food provided by the World Food Program at a school in Port Salut, Haiti. (Photo: CNS/Ricardo Arduengo, Reuters)

Busload of Missionaries, Including Children, Kidnapped by Armed Gang in Haiti

By Tablet Staff

PROSPECT PARK — Seventeen people were kidnapped by gang members in Haiti on Saturday, Oct. 16, including five men, seven women, and five children, according to an Ohio-based humanitarian aid group.

The group’s missionaries and family members were traveling by bus Saturday to Titanyen, north of the capital Port-au-Prince, after visiting an orphanage in the Croix des Bouquets area. They were abducted along the route between the two places.

Port-au-Prince police inspector Frantz Champagne said members of the 400 Mawozo gang abducted the missionaries east of the country’s capital. 

The abducted people — 16 Americans and one Canadian — are affiliated with Christian Aid Ministries, an organization that supports Haitians largely through donations and supplies shelter, food, and clothing to children and helps to fund their education.

“We are seeking God’s direction for a resolution, and authorities are seeking ways to help,” the group said in a statement.

According to reports, the FBI sent agents to Haiti to assist with negotiations for the missionaries’ release.

A spokesperson for the U.S. State Department said, “The welfare and safety of US citizens abroad is one of the highest priorities of the Department of State.”

Kidnappings have surged in Haiti throughout 2021, with numbers rising nearly 300% since July.

At least 628 kidnappings have taken place since January, of which 29 are of foreigners, according to data released earlier this month by the Center for Analysis and Research in Human Rights, a non-profit based in Port-au-Prince.

Earlier this month, Haitian Foreign Minister Claude Joseph called on the United Nations Security Council to strengthen the mandate of the UN special political mission in his country to help ensure security and protection for civilians, according to a UN news release.

“These are the legitimate expectations of the people who have suffered enough from gang violence, kidnapping, and widespread crime,” Joseph said.

Violence in Haiti — the poorest country in the Americas — has spiraled both since the assassination of President Moïse and an earthquake the following month that killed more than 2,000 people.

Armed gangs have controlled the poorest districts of Port-au-Prince for years. The rise of their violent activities has displaced almost 19,000 people from those neighborhoods, according to the U.N. Recently they have extended their hold to other parts of the capital city and its outlying areas.

Kidnappings for ransom by these gangs had skyrocketed in June and August, with 91 people documented kidnapped in April 2021. Among them were seven priests, including two French nationals abducted in broad daylight as they drove in a convoy to the ordination of a new priest.

This story has been updated.