Harrowing Message Reported During Americans' Kidnapping in Haiti

'Pray for us!' said WhatsApp message during abduction of 17 missionaries in Haiti
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Oct 18, 2021 6:22 AM CDT
Notorious Haitian Gang Blamed in Americans' Kidnapping
This Sunday photo shows the logo for Christian Aid Ministries in Berlin, Ohio, on a truck.   (AP Photo/Tom E. Puskar)

US officials are working with Haitian authorities to secure the release of 12 adults and five children with a US-based missionary group who were abducted over the weekend by a gang notorious for killings, kidnappings, and extortion. The group was snatched by the 400 Mawozo gang, which controls the Croix-des-Bouquets area east of the capital of Port-au-Prince, police inspector Frantz Champagne told the AP on Sunday. The abduction happened Saturday in the community of Ganthier, which lies in the gang's area. It was blamed for the kidnapping of five priests and two nuns earlier this year.

The Ohio-based Christian Aid Ministries said the kidnapped group included seven women, five men, and five children, including a 2-year-old. They were 16 Americans and one Canadian. The organization said they were taken while on a trip to visit an orphanage. A person familiar with the case tells the Washington Post that one of the missionaries sent a plea for help in a WhatsApp group as the kidnapping occurred. “Please pray for us!! We are being held hostage, they kidnapped our driver," the message read. "Pray pray pray. We don’t know where they are taking us."

An annual report issued last year by the group said its American staffers had returned to their base in Haiti after a nine-month absence "due to political unrest." Nearly a year ago, Haitian police issued a wanted poster for the alleged leader of the 400 Mawozo gang, Wilson Joseph, on charges including murder, attempted murder, kidnapping, and auto theft. The Western Hemisphere's poorest nation is again struggling with a spike in gang-related kidnappings. The US State Department said Sunday that it was in regular contact with senior Haitian authorities and would continue to work with them and interagency partners.

(Read more Haiti stories.)

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