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16 American missionaries returning from Haiti orphanage kidnapped by notorious gang

Jacqueline Charles, Miami Herald on

Published in News & Features

A group of American missionaries has been kidnapped on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, allegedly by a notorious gang that was behind the abduction of several Roman Catholic clergy earlier this year.

The missionaries, 16 Americans and a Canadian citizen, including several children, were kidnapped Saturday in the community of Ganthier, just east of the capital, according to a human rights center that monitors kidnapping. The group was reportedly taken in the area of La Tremblay after returning from visiting an orphanage,

The gang believed to be behind the kidnapping is known as 400 Mawozo, which operates in the area of Croix-des-Bouquets and is known for attacking vehicles and kidnapping people from cars and buses.

“This is the type of kidnapping that 400 Mawozo do; we call it a collective kidnapping where they kidnap any entire bus or car,” said Gédéon Jean, who runs the Center for Analysis and Research in Human Rights in Port-au-Prince, which monitors kidnapping in the country. Jean said the gang is responsible for about 80% of the kidnappings taking place in Haiti.

While U.S. officials, including the FBI, have been alerted about the kidnapping, Haiti National Police spokeswoman Marie-Michelle Verrier said they have not been able to confirm the abduction.

“We have no information and no one has filed a report,” she said.

 

The brazen kidnapping of the Christian missionaries is the latest in a wave of abductions in Haiti.

It happened just days after U.S. officials, including the Under Secretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights Uzra Zeya, visited to evaluate the country’s security challenges and a day after the U.N. Security Council unanimously extended the mandate of its political office in Haiti by nine months. That decision came as U.N. diplomats, in a separate meeting, heard from Haitians and others about the country’s deteriorating political landscape and security since the July 7 assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse.

On Sunday, Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry, commemorating the 215th anniversary of the death of founding father Jean-Jacques Dessalines, was prevented from laying the traditional wreath at Pont Rouge, just north of the capital, where Dessalines was assassinated.

Local media reported that heavily armed gang members blocked Henry from laying the wreath and his delegation was forced to leave under a chorus of automatic gunfire. Henry made no mention of the incident on his Twitter feed when he noted that he had deposited an arrangement in memory of the emperor at the altar where his remains lie. The altar is at the national pantheon museum, known as the MUPANAH, across from the presidential palace.

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