A renowned Haitian gang known for brutal kidnappings and murders was suspected by police on Sunday of kidnapping 17 missionaries from a US-based organisation. Five children were among those taken, according to a voice message sent to several religious missions by an organisation with firsthand knowledge of the incident.
“The group of sixteen US citizens and one Canadian citizen consists of five men, seven women, and five children,” the Ohio-based nonprofit said in a statement posted Sunday.
According to Haitian police inspector Frantz Champagne, the trio was kidnapped in Ganthier, a hamlet east of the city of Port-au-Prince, by the 400 Mawozo gangs. The group is suspected of kidnapping five priests and two nuns in Haiti early this year.
The missionaries were on their way home from establishing an orphanage on Saturday, according to a statement from Christian Aid Ministries in Ohio.
According to a source in Haiti’s security forces, the kidnapping was carried out by local gang members, and an investigation is underway. Haitian officials are in contact with the US State Department regarding the kidnapping, according to Claude Joseph, the country’s foreign minister.
According to CNN, Washington is now unaware of the whereabouts of 16 kidnapped Americans in Haiti.
A US government representative said that they were aware of the kidnapping reports.
“One of the top concerns of the Department of State is the welfare and safety of US citizens abroad,” the spokeswoman said.