US, Haiti working together to try and secure release of abducted missionaries
U.S. officials and Haitian authorities are working together to try and secure the release of 17 kidnapped missionaries, The Associated Press reported.
A voice message sent to a number of religious missions by an organization with direct knowledge of the incident said that the mission’s field director is working with the U.S. Embassy in Haiti, NBC reported.
The message also added that the field director’s family and one other person stayed at the ministry’s base while others — 16 Americans and one Canadian — visiting an orphanage were kidnapped.
“The welfare and safety of U.S. citizens abroad is one of the highest priorities of the Department of State,” the State Department spokesperson said to USA Today.
The Hill has reached out to the State Department for comment.
One of the abducted missionaries, an American citizen, also managed to send out a distress message in a WhatsApp group as the kidnapping was taking place, CNN reported.
Authorities said on Saturday that 16 Americans and one Canadian with the Ohio-based Christian Aid Ministries were abducted from Croix des Bouquets, a northeast neighborhood in the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince, by the 400 Mawozo gang.
The gang, known for killings, kidnappings and extortion, was allegedly also responsible for the kidnapping of five priests and two nuns earlier this year, according to the AP.
The New York Times reported that the Christian missionaries were leaving the orphanage after a scheduled visit when the kidnapping took place.
“We are seeking God’s direction for a resolution, and authorities are seeking ways to help,” the statement from Christian Aid Ministries said.
This incident took place just a few days after U.S. officials visited Haiti and committed to resources for Haiti’s National Police, including another $15 million to help reduce gang violence, The Associated Press added.