Powerful gang behind kidnapping of 17 missionaries, security source says

As they had been touring from the orphanage in direction of Titanyen, north of Port-au-Prince, gang members stopped the automobile at gunpoint.

The 400 Mawozo gang has been rising in energy for the previous three years, numbering as much as 150 members, and has basically taken management of Croix des Bouquets, the supply in Haiti’s safety forces advised CNN on Sunday,

Kidnapping for ransom is a trademark exercise of the gang. They have kidnapped dozens of individuals this 12 months alone, together with international nationals, the supply stated.

Once infamous for automotive theft, the 400 Mawozo has pioneered “collective” kidnappings of enormous teams of victims from buses and vehicles, in keeping with the Center for Analysis and Research for Human Rights (CARDH), a Port-au-Prince-based nonprofit.

A goat stands in the courtyard of the Maison La Providence de Dieu orphanage in Croix-des-Bouquets, Haiti, on October 17.

Much of the rise in kidnappings in Haiti is because of the 400 Mawozo, in keeping with CARDH. Gang members interact in close to each day confrontations with Haitian police and even tax native companies.

In September, the gang kidnapped “several” truck drivers from the Dominican Republic, and proceed to carry them hostage amid negotiations for his or her launch, the Haitian safety pressure supply stated.

Those ongoing negotiations are factoring into authorities’ choices about proceed with the kidnapped American and Canadian missionaries, the supply added.

According to CARDH, the vast majority of the gang’s victims are Haitian residents and kidnappings have surged in Haiti this 12 months — with an almost 300% enhance since July.

At least 628 kidnappings have taken place since January, together with of 29 foreigners, in keeping with information launched by the middle. The 400 Mawozo has usually demanded ransoms of round $20,000, it stated.

Investigation ongoing

The US State Department confirmed Monday that 16 US residents had been among the many 17 people kidnapped.

“The welfare and safety of US citizens abroad is one of the highest priorities of the Department of State. We have been in regular contact with senior Haitian authorities and will continue to work with them and inter-agency partners,” a State Department spokesperson stated in a press release.

Ohio-based Christian Aid Ministries launched a press release on Sunday confirming the kidnapping of the missionaries and stated the kidnapped group was made up of 5 males, seven ladies and 5 youngsters.

“We are seeking God’s direction for a resolution, and authorities are seeking ways to help,” the assertion stated.

Dan Hooley, a former discipline director for Christian Aid Ministries in Haiti, advised CNN on Sunday that all the kidnapped missionaries are believed to have been in a single automobile, and that some had been capable of contact the group’s native director earlier than they had been taken.

The kidnappers have additionally already made contact with the group, he stated.

“A couple of fellows right away messaged the director and told him what was going on. 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 stated.

Haitian officers are in contact with the US State Department in regards to the kidnapping, the nation’s international minister, Claude Joseph, advised CNN.

One of the kidnapped missionaries, an American citizen, additionally posted a name for assist in a WhatsApp group because the kidnapping was occurring, The Washington Post reported, quoting an individual accustomed to the kidnapping who spoke on the situation of anonymity.

Christian Aid Ministries in Berlin, Ohio is seen here on Sunday, October 17.

“Please pray for us!! We are being held hostage, they kidnapped our driver. Pray pray pray. We don’t know where they are taking us,” the message stated.

It is unclear whether or not the message was a video or a textual content despatched to the WhatsApp group, and there’s no data on the WhatsApp group itself within the Washington Post’s reporting.

CNN can’t independently confirm the authenticity of this message or the report.

According to a senior US official accustomed to the scenario, the FBI and State Department officers have no idea the present location of the kidnapped missionaries.

Canadian officers are additionally working with native authorities and “implicated NGOs” to collect data, a spokeswoman for Global Affairs Canada advised CNN.

CNN has reached out to the Haitian Justice Ministry and the National Police however they haven’t but commented.

Indiscriminate kidnappings

Former discipline director for Christian Aid Ministries Hooley stated the members of the group would have been conscious of the dangers they had been taking.

“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 stated.

Hooley added that he knew a number of of the victims personally. “Two of them are single fellas. One was down there for a while, the other one is a friend of ours who just flew in on Friday, and was planning to help out with the Haiti earthquake, the situation down there in the south.”

“And then there’s a young couple there — a young couple with two children that were also abducted. We lived with her (the mother) in Oregon, and knew her family very well,” Hooley stated.

Kidnapping in Haiti is commonly indiscriminate, with each wealthy and poor residents focused. Several kidnapping victims and their households beforehand advised CNN that they had been nonetheless working to repay money owed, after borrowing cash from buddies, employers and even banks to pay ransoms.

In a case that has grow to be infamous throughout the nation, a 5-year-old lady was reportedly discovered lifeless early this 12 months with indicators of strangulation. Her mom, a peanut vendor, advised Reuters she had been unable to provide you with the equal of $4,000 for ransom.

Just earlier than the missionaries’ abduction, a Haitian transportation union had known as for an indefinite strike beginning Monday to protest the spike in kidnappings, amongst different points.

“We call on the government to put an end to the kidnappings and provide us safety or for them to resign immediately. We are the most victims; the transportation sector is an easy target for kidnappers all over the country,” Méhu Changeux, president of the Association of Owners and Drivers of Haiti, advised CNN on Sunday.

“We lost many members to the insecurity and dozens of members have been kidnapped. The latest tragedy of the kidnapping of the American missionaries shows no one is safe in this country,” Changeux stated.

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