Two of 17 missionaries kidnapped by a ruthless gang in Haiti last month have been released, church officials said.
Christian Aid Ministries announced in a statement Sunday that two of the 16 Americans and one Canadian who were abducted by the 400 Mawozo gang in Port-au-Prince on Oct. 16 were in “good spirits” and “being cared for” after being freed.
“We praise God for this!” the Ohio-based organization said. “We cannot provide or confirm the names of those released, the reasons for their release, where they are from, or their current location.”
The leader of the notorious gang, Wilson Joseph, had threatened to kill the hostages, demanding $1 million for each person, although it wasn’t clear if that ransom pertained to the five children victims as well, including an 8-month-old.
The group consists of members of Amish, Mennonite and other conservative Anabaptist communities from six US states and Ontario, CNN reported. Their Haitian driver was also abducted as they visited an orphanage in the poor Caribbean nation.
Christian Aid Ministries, meanwhile, asked that anyone who has additional information about the release of the hostages to “safeguard” those details.
“We encourage you to continue to pray for the full resolution of this situation,” the group said. “While we rejoice at this release, our hearts are with the fifteen people who are still being held. Continue to lift up the remaining hostages before the Lord.”
A spokesman for Haiti’s National Police also confirmed that two hostages were released Sunday. The FBI declined to comment.
It’s unclear why only two of the hostages, who were held for 37 days, had been released and whether a ransom was paid, the New York Times reported. In some earlier kidnappings by the 400 Mawozo gang, known for orchestrating mass abductions, the captors had freed people who were ill or elderly.
“We welcome reports that two individuals held hostage in Haiti have been released,” a spokesperson for the State Department told the newspaper.
Sunday’s release comes as Haiti continues to struggle with a rise in gang-related violence and kidnappings. Canada announced Friday it would pull all but essential personnel from its embassy there. Tens of thousands of Haitian Americans live in Haiti, where they’re seen as prime targets for abduction, the Times reported.
The nation is also still reeling from the July 7 assassination of President Jovenel Moïse. A security breakdown in the wake of the killing has allowed gangs to increase their grip over Port-au-Prince and its suburbs, where nearly half of the country lives, the newspaper reported.
With Post wires