Five Children Among 17 Missionaries Kidnapped By Haitian Gang 400 Mawozo
In SummaryA group of 17 missionaries have been kidnapped by a notorious Haitian gang while on a visit to an orphanage, adding to the civil unrest the country has been experiencing at high rates following the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse in July.
Federal Bureau of Investigation agents have landed in Port-au-Prince to help with negotiations, as 400 Mawozo, one of Haiti’s most dangerous gangs, is holding a group of 16 Americans and a Canadian missionary hostage after they were kidnapped over the weekend.
In a statement, Christian Aid Ministries says the workers were kidnapped while on their way to visit an orphanage. The group of missionaries consists of five men, seven women and five children.
The Millersburg, Ohio-based organization provides a school aid program for children and Biblical training to local church leaders in Haiti’s Titanyen and La Source villages, as well as food and material assistance to people.
“We are seeking God’s direction for a resolution, and authorities are seeking ways to help,” the non-profit said, adding “pray for those who are seeking God’s direction and making decisions regarding this matter.”
The U.S. Embassy in Haiti issued a Level 4 “do not travel” advisory for the country following the kidnappings outside Port-au-Prince, citing crime, civil unrest and COVID-19.
“Kidnapping is widespread and victims regularly include U.S. citizens. Kidnappers may use sophisticated planning or take advantage of unplanned opportunities, and even convoys have been attacked,” per the advisory. “Kidnapping cases often involve ransom negotiations and U.S. citizen victims have been physically harmed during kidnappings. Victim’s families have paid thousands of dollars to rescue their family members.”
Miami Herald’s Jacqueline Charles says the kidnappings are thought to have been carried out by the 400 Mawozo gang, which operates along the path to the Dominican Republic-Haiti border. Wilson Joseph, who goes by the moniker “Lanm Sanjou,” meaning “death doesn’t know when it’s coming,” leads the pack.
It has progressed from cow and car thievery to kidnappings and extortion of local businesses. They are gaining a reputation for attacking vehicles and snatching people from automobiles and buses, then ransoming them collectively rather than individually to evade detection.
Haitian news organization Juno7 says the kidnapping of a group of five Catholic priests and two nuns earlier this year at the site of Saturday’s abduction has also been linked to the 400 Mawozo, per NBC News. All of them were subsequently freed.
According to Charles, the kidnappings are a challenge for both President Joe Biden’s administration and Haiti’s shaky interim government, which gained power when President Jovenel Moïse was assassinated in his home in July. After supporting the UN peacekeeping mission’s departure from Haiti after 13 years, the Biden administration has been under increasing pressure to assist the country in addressing its serious security concerns.