Gang boss in Haiti threatens to kill abducted missionaries

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — A U.S. religious organization whose 17 members were kidnapped in Haiti asked supporters on Friday to pray and share stories with the victims’ families of how their faith helped them through difficult times as efforts to recover them entered a sixth day.

Ohio-based Christian Aid Ministries issued the statement a day after a video was released showing the leader of the 400 Mawozo gang threatening to kill those abducted if his demands are not met. Officials in Haiti have stated that the Mawozo gang demands $1 million per person. However, it is not clear whether this includes five of the children who are 8 months old.

“You may wonder why our workers chose to live in a difficult and dangerous context, despite the apparent risks,” the organization said. “Before leaving for Haiti, our workers who are now being held hostage expressed a desire to faithfully serve God in Haiti.”

The FBI is helping Haitian authorities recover the 16 Americans and one Canadian. Local human rights groups claim that their Haitian driver was also kidnapped.

“Pray that their commitment to God could become even stronger during this difficult experience,” Christian Aid Ministries said.

At the White House on Friday, U.S. press secretary Jen Psaki sidestepped questions about whether the Biden administration would look to halt deportations of Haitians to their home country or consider adding a U.S. military presence on the ground in response to the missionaries’ kidnappings.

“We are working around the clock to bring these people home,” she said. She said that they are U.S. Citizens and have been targeted over the past few years in Haiti and elsewhere too…for kidnapping and ransom. That is one of the reasons that the State Department issued the warning they did in August about the risk of kidnapping for ransom.”

Psaki spoke a day after a couple hundred protestors shut down one neighborhood in Haiti’s capital to decry the country’s deepening insecurity and lack of fuel blamed on gangs, with some demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Ariel Henry.

The streets of Port-au-Prince were largely quiet and empty on Friday, although hundreds of supporters of Jimmy Cherizier, leader of “G9 Family and Allies,” a federation of nine gangs, marched through the seaside slum of Cite Soleil.

“We are not involved in kidnapping. Cherizier (also known as Barbecue) stated that he would never get involved in kidnapping during a speech to his supporters.

As they marched, the supporters sang and chanted that G9 is not involved in kidnappings. Some were equipped with high-caliber automatic weapons.

“This is the way they are running the country,” Cherizier, who is implicated in several massacres, said as he pointed to trash lining the streets with his assault weapon.

Amid the worsening insecurity, the office of Prime Minister Ariel Henry announced late Thursday that Leon Charles had resigned as head of Haiti’s National Police and was replaced by Frantz Elbe. According to Le Nouvelliste, Elbe served as director of South East and Nippes police departments. Elbe also previously worked at the National Palace in the capacity of general security coordinator when Jocelerme Privert had been provisional president.

“We would like for public peace to be restored, that we return to normal life and that we regain our way to democracy,” Henry said.

Weston Showalter, spokesman for the religious group, has said the families of those kidnapped are from Amish, Mennonite and other conservative Anabaptist communities in Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Oregon and Ontario, Canada. He read a letter from the families, who weren’t identified by name, in which they said, “God has given our loved ones the unique opportunity to live out our Lord’s command to love your enemies.”

The organization later issued a statement saying it would not comment on the video.

The gang leader’s death threat added to the already intense concern in and around Holmes County, Ohio, where Christian Aid Ministries is based and which has one of the nation’s largest concentrations of Amish, conservative Mennonite and related groups. These groups often support the organisation through donations and volunteering in its warehouse.

UNICEF said Thursday that 71 women and 30 children have been kidnapped so far this year — surpassing the 59 women and 37 children abducted in all of last year. According to the agency, they represent one-third of all kidnappings this year.

Associated Press writers Danica Coto in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Aamer Madhani in Washington, D.C., Kantele Franko in Columbus, Ohio, Peter Smith in Pittsburgh contributed to this report.

Read More

Related Posts