Haiti gang wants $17 million ransom for kidnapped North American missionaries: Report

The gang that kidnapped a group of 17 American and Canadian missionaries in Haiti has asked for $1 million each for their release, a top Haitian official said on Monday.

The 16 American citizens and one Canadian were kidnapped by the powerful “400 Mawozo” gang on Saturday after visiting an orphanage in Croix-des-Bouquets, a northeast suburb of the capital Port-au-Prince, officials said

Haitian Justice Minister Liszt Quitel said on Monday that the missionaries were being held in a safe house right outside the suburb by the gang, which has demanded a total of $17 million for the group’s release, the WSJ reported.

The kidnapped missionaries are affiliated with the Ohio-based Christian Aid Ministries, which confirmed the kidnapping on Sunday in a statement, saying the abducted group was made up of five men, seven women and five children.

Quitel said that the five children abducted included an 8-month-old baby and minors ages 3, 6, 14 and 15.

“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 said in a statement Monday.

Much of the rise in kidnappings in Haiti is due to the 400 Mawozo, according to the Center for Analysis and Research for Human Rights (CARDH), a Port-au-Prince-based nonprofit.

Gang members engage in near daily confrontations with Haitian police and tax local businesses.

The 400 Mawozo has been growing in strength for the past three years, numbering up to 150 members, and has essentially taken control of Croix des Bouquets.

Kidnapping for ransom is a hallmark activity of the gang. They have abducted dozens of people this year alone, including foreign nationals.