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Haiti police receive proof of life for 17 kidnapped missionaries

Randy Mancini 22 October 29, 2021
Protesters demand the release of kidnapped missionaries near the missionaries' headquarters in Titanyen, north of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2021. A group of 17 U.S. missionaries including children was kidnapped by a gang in Haiti on Saturday, Oct. 16, according to a voice message sent to various religious missions by an organization with direct knowledge of the incident. (AP Photo/Joseph Odelyn)

Protesters demand the release of kidnapped missionaries near the missionaries’ headquarters in Titanyen, north of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2021. A group of 17 U.S. missionaries including children was kidnapped by a gang in Haiti on Saturday, Oct. 16, according to a voice message sent to various religious missions by an organization with direct knowledge of the incident. (AP Photo/Joseph Odelyn)

Haitian authorities announced they have received proof that the 17 missionaries taken hostage two weeks ago are still alive. Sources inside the Haitian National Police told the AFP Thursday that they received proof of life, but did not specify what sort of evidence the kidnappers provided.

Christian Aid Ministries said the 17 missionaries, including five children ranging from eight-months to 15-years-old, were abducted on October 16 following a visit to an orphanage outside Haiti’s capital. The 400 Mawozo Gang has threatened to kill the hostages if they do not receive the $17 million ransom. U.S. authorities have reached out to the gang regarding the group’s release.

“We have [in the administration] been relentlessly focused on this, including sending a team to Haiti from the State Department, working very closely with the FBI, which is the lead in these kinds of matters,” stated White House Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre. “In constant communication with the Haitian National Police, the church that the missionaries belong to as well as the Haitian government and we will do everything that we can to help resolve the situation.”

The 400 Mawozo, which loosely translates as the “400 Simpletons,” kidnapped 16 American missionaries and one Canadian missionary that were visiting an orphanage outside the capital Port Au Prince. Wilson Joseph, the gang’s leader, released a video Thursday in which he threatened to kill the mission group if the ransom is not paid.

“I will put a bullet in the heads of these Americans.”

The leader of Haiti’s 400 Mawozo gang has released a video threatening to kill 17 kidnapped missionaries if a ransom is not paid.

Read more: https://t.co/JB0sevYLRv pic.twitter.com/eC6jCNkctQ

— Al Jazeera English (@AJEnglish) October 22, 2021

Locals said the abduction fosters fear throughout the nation hindering commerce.

“When we hear (there is a kidnapping), the effect of the kidnapping, (we know) there’s not going to be (good for) drivers,” explained Charles Pierre, a motorcycle taxi driver. “People do not go out in the streets. We can not find people to transport. We have a wife (and) four to five children, and a family, children. (We) have responsibilities at home.” 

The gang is responsible for a number of violent kidnappings and extortion plots throughout the impoverished nation over the last few years, including the kidnapping of five priests and two nuns earlier this year. In response, a State Department spokesman said the “welfare and safety” of U.S. citizens abroad is their highest priority.

The White House gave an update on efforts to get American missionaries back home. Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the FBI is leading the charge on efforts to see that 17 missionaries from the U.S.-based Christian Aid Ministries are returned to safety. She added, Joe Biden is receiving regular updates on the matter.

“The President has been briefed and is receiving regular updates on what the State Department and the FBI are doing to bring these individuals home safely,” Psaki stated.

The press secretary noted that due to operational considerations, she was not going to go into too much detail about the rescue strategy at this time. However, she did confirm there has been engagement with the 400 Mawozo gang and local authorities are assisting in the matter.

Joseph has also threatened Prime Minister Ariel Henry and the Chief of Haiti’s National Police, Leon Charles as he spoke in front of the open coffins of five recently killed gang members.

“I cry water, but I’m going to make you guys cry blood,” said Joseph. “By killing five of my soldiers it doesn’t mean he’s going to destroy my army.”

Please join me in praying for the protection and safe return of the U.S. missionaries kidnapped in Haiti.

— Sen. Marsha Blackburn (@MarshaBlackburn) October 17, 2021

The identities of the missionaries have not been released at this time. On Thursday, Weston Showalter of Christian Aid Ministries read a letter from the hostage’s families who thanked the public for their prayers and actually thanked God for the situation in which their family members find themselves.

“God has given our loved ones the unique opportunity to live out our Lord’s command to love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you,” it read.

The families have asked God to keep their loved ones strong in their faith and to bring them home when their mission is complete.

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