17 US missionaries kidnapped

World | ASSOCIATED PRESS 18 Oct 2021

A group of 17 US missionaries, including children, were kidnapped by a gang in Haiti on Saturday, according to an organization with direct knowledge of the incident.

They were on their way home from building an orphanage, according to a voice message sent to various religious missions from Ohio-based Christian Aid Ministries.

"This is a special prayer alert," the one-minute message said.

Haiti is once again struggling with a spike in gang-related kidnappings. At least 328 kidnapping victims were reported to Haiti's National Police in the first eight months of 2021, compared with 234 in 2020, according to a report issued last month by the United Nations Integrated Office in Haiti known as BINUH.

Gangs have demanded ransoms ranging from a couple hundred dollars to more than US$1 million (HK$7.8 million), according to authorities. They have been accused of kidnapping schoolchildren, police officers, busloads of passengers and others.

"Political turmoil, the surge in gang violence, deteriorating socioeconomic conditions - including food insecurity and malnutrition - all contribute to the worsening of the humanitarian situation," BINUH said.

The kidnapping of the missionaries comes just days after high-level US officials visited Haiti and promised $15 million for Haiti's National Police to help reduce gang violence, which this year has displaced thousands of Haitians who now live in increasingly unhygienic temporary shelters.

On Friday, the UN Security Council voted unanimously to extend the UN political mission in Haiti.

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