17 Missionaries Kidnapped by Haitian Gang Last Month Are Still Being Held Captive
The leader of the kidnappers has threatened to kill the hostages unless a $17 million ransom is paid.
Ohio-based Christian aid ministries say they've been working with the U.S. government regarding their return.
A top U.S. official in the Biden administration said they saw proof of life of all of the missionaries but gave no further details.
The Biden administration warns any American citizens who are still in Haiti to leave, as kidnapping is widespread.
The U.S. has issued a level 4 travel advisory to Haiti and recommends not traveling due to kidnapping, crime, civil unrest and COVID-19.
Over the summer, the country's president was assassinated, and the country suffered another devastating earthquake. In addition, there's swelling gang violence, a gang-aggravated fuel shortage, a looming food shortage and unpredictable security.
"The gangs are stronger than the police," said former U.S. Special Envoy to Haiti Daniel Foote. "The police are outgunned and overmatched right now. They need lethal aid. They need training. We can give that to them."
Foote resigned in September, disagreeing with the Biden administration's Haiti policy.
"I proposed sending a company or so of U.S. special forces to train an anti-gang task force within the National Haitian National Police. So you're talking about 30, 60 people," he said.
The Biden administration opposes sending troops.
The leader of the kidnappers has threatened to kill the hostages unless a $17 million ransom is paid. The White House says President Biden is briefed on the situation every day.
On its website, Christian aid ministries addressed why some of their members chose to travel to Haiti in such an unpredictable and risky climate by saying their workers expressed a desire to faithfully serve God in Haiti.
A Haitian priest kidnapped in the spring by the same gang and later released shared his experience, which may shed some light on what the captive missionaries are going through.
The priest was reportedly blindfolded and led to a ramshackle house where he slept and used the bathroom on dirt floors. While there, he was fed small amounts of bread, rice and Coca-Cola.
Gang members demanded the same $1 million ransom as they are asking for the return of each of the missionaries. He says after 20 days, an undisclosed amount was paid, and he was freed.
While talking about the kidnappers, a father of the missionaries held hostage told the ministry, "we are interested in the salvation of these men, and we love them."
"As a family, we are giving forgiveness to these men," another father said. "We are not holding anything against them."
They continue asking for prayers for the safe return of their loved ones.
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