By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent
(Worthy News) - Some 17 American Christian missionaries and their families, including children, have been kidnapped by a notorious gang in Haiti, Christian and security sources say.
The 400 Mawozo gang abducted the group in Ganthier, a commune east of the capital Port-au-Prince, said Haitian police inspector Frantz Champagne.
The gang, whose name roughly translates to 400 “inexperienced men,” controls the Croix-des-Bouquets area that includes Ganthier, sources said.
They carried out kidnappings and carjackings and extorted business owners, according to authorities.
Ohio-based Christian Aid Ministries (CAM) charity said the kidnapped group were 16 U.S. citizens and one Canadian, including five children, seven women, and five men.
The missionaries were on their way home from building an orphanage, according to CAM. “This is a special prayer alert,” the one-minute statement of the group said.
ABDUCTED FROM BUS
“Pray that the gang members would come to repentance,” CAM added.
Local officials told reporters that the missionaries were abducted from a bus headed to the airport to drop off some group members before continuing to another area in Haiti.
The CAM message to supporters said the local mission’s field director is working with the U.S. Embassy.
The group said its field director’s family and one other unidentified man stayed at the ministry’s base while everyone visiting the orphanage was abducted.
No other details were immediately available.
A U.S. government spokesperson said in a statement that they were aware of the reports on the kidnapping.
U.S. CITIZENS WELFARE
“The welfare and safety of U.S. citizens abroad are one of the highest priorities of the Department of State,” the spokesperson said, declining further comment.
The abductions were linked to gang members in Haiti's capital of Port-au-Prince, security officials said.
Worthy News earlier reported mounting concerns among missionaries and church leaders about kidnappings in the impoverished, troubled nation.
The kidnapping of the American missionaries happened a day after the United Nations Security Council extended its mission in Haiti by nine months in a unanimous vote on Friday.
Haitians have been calling for the United States to send troops to stabilize the situation, but U.S. President Joe Biden has been reluctant to commit boots on the ground.
Haiti has been in a state of political upheaval for years, and kidnappings of the rich and poor have increased.
OFFICIALS EXPRESS SHOCK
The New York Times newspaper reported, however, that “even in a country accustomed to widespread lawlessness, the abduction of such a large group of Americans shocked officials for its brazenness.”
Violence is surging across the capital, Port-au-Prince. By some estimates, gangs now control roughly half of the city. On Monday, gangs reportedly shot at a school bus in Port-au-Prince, injuring at least five people, including students, while another public bus was hijacked by a gang as well.
Security disintegrated along with the country’s politics. Protestors angered by deep-rooted corruption sought the ouster of President Jovenel Moïse two years ago.
The demonstrations paralyzed the nation, with the sick struggling to reach hospitals. It also prevented children from attending school, workers from going to the few jobs available, and even halted electricity in several parts of Haiti.
Gangs have used the chaos to become more assertive. They operate at will, kidnapping children on their way to school and pastors in the middle of delivering their services.
The nation’s political turmoil intensified further after Moïse was assassinated in his home in July. That killing remains unsolved.