Is 400 Mawozo the Haitian gang that kidnapped American missionaries, or are they just a bunch of kids?

News that an armed Haitian gang kidnapped 17 members of an Ohio-based missionary group — including five children — on Saturday once again pushed Haiti into the center of an international crisis.

But for Haitians rich and poor, gang violence and kidnappings for ransom have become a tragically common facet of life.

Haiti, the Western Hemisphere’s poorest country, holds the grim record of the world’s highest kidnapping rate per capita. One gang — 400 Mawozo — was responsible for 80 percent of abductions in Haiti from June through September, according to Gedeon Jean, director of the Center for Analysis and Research in Human Rights in Port-au-Prince.

The Haitian police say the group is probably behind Saturday’s kidnapping, too.

“The welfare and safety of U.S. citizens abroad is one of the highest priorities of the Department of State,” an agency spokesperson said Sunday, confirming that 16 U.S. citizens were kidnapped. “We have been in regular contact with senior Haitian authorities and will continue to work with them and interagency partners.”

The U.S. Embassy in Haiti reported a planned general transportation strike and calls for demonstrations Monday.

Here’s what to know about 400 Mawozo and Haiti’s gang violence.

Members of Ohio-based Christian Aid Ministries, including 16 Americans and one Canadian, were kidnapped in Haiti on Oct. 17 near Port-au-Prince. (Reuters)

What to know

  • Who is 400 Mawozo?
  • Who else have they targeted?
  • Why are gangs surging in Haiti?
  • Why are kidnappings so common in Haiti?

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