Haitian gang demands $17 million ransom for kidnapped Christian missionaries

The gang that claimed responsibility for kidnapping 17 American and Canadian Christian missionaries is demanding $1 million for each victim’s release, according to a Tuesday CNN report. 

The outlet reported that members of the powerful 400 Mawozo gang kidnapped the missionaries after a visit to a Croiz-des-Bouquets orphanage on Saturday. 

What are the details? 

Haitian Justice Minister Liszt Quitel told CNN in a statement that the kidnappers are demanding a sum totaling $17 million for the group’s release. 

The victims, volunteering for Christian Aid Ministries, include five men, seven women, and five children. 

Quitel added that the missionaries are being held “somewhere outside of Croix-des-Bouquets,” a Port-au-Prince-area suburb that is under the gang’s control.

“The gang has locations where they usually keep their hostages so that they can feel the hostages are safe,” Quitel added. “They feel comfortable keeping them there. … The kidnappers have been warned about harming the hostages and what may be the consequences for them [if that were to happen]. But they are not swayed by those warnings.”

Haitian police negotiators and agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation are working together to advise the missionary group on how to proceed. 

The FBI is also assisting Haiti officials in the investigation.

“The FBI is part of a coordinated U.S. government effort to get the Americans involved to safety. Due to operational considerations, no further information is available at this time,” an FBI spokesperson told CNN for its reporting. 

On Sunday, Dan Hooley — former field director for Christian Aid Ministries in Haiti — said that all of the kidnapping victims were believed to have been in one vehicle. 

“A couple of fellows right away messaged the director and told him what was going on,” Hooley said at the time. “And one of them was able to drop a pin, and that’s the last thing (the organization) heard until the kidnappers contacted them later in the day.” 

Hooley added that the missionaries were well aware of the risks associated with their work in the impoverished area. 

“These are very dedicated people, people that have risked their lives, they knew the dangers that they were in, or at least were aware of what could happen, I’m sure,” he explained. 

What else?

On Sunday, USA Today reported, “At least 328 kidnapping victims were reported to Haiti’s National Police in the first eight months of 2021, compared with a total of 234 for all of 2020, according to a report issued last month by the United Nations Integrated Office in Haiti known as BINUH.”

“Political turmoil, the surge in gang violence, deteriorating socioeconomic conditions — including food insecurity and malnutrition — all contribute to the worsening of the humanitarian situation,” the report added. “An overstretched and under-resourced police force alone cannot address the security ills of Haiti.”