Kidnappers in Haiti free two of 17 missionaries, but unclear whether that includes Canadian
‘Continue to lift up the remaining hostages before the Lord,’ Christian Aid Ministries said of those not released
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti – Two of the 17 foreign missionaries who were kidnapped by a notorious street gang in Haiti last month have been released, a U.S. aid group said Sunday.
“Only limited information can be provided, but we are able to report that the two hostages who were released are safe, in good spirits, and being cared for,” Ohio-based Christian Aid Ministries said in a statement posted to its website . “We praise God for this!”
Haitian authorities confirmed the release to The Washington Post. Haiti National Police spokesman Garry Desrosiers said he could not provide details.
The Oct. 16 kidnappings of the missionaries and family members by the gang 400 Mawozo thrust the poverty-stricken Caribbean nation again into the center of an international crisis.
The group included 16 Americans and a Canadian – six men, six women and five children. The adults ranged in age from 18 to 48, Christian Aid Ministries said. The children ranged from 8 months to 15.
The missionaries were seized while returning from a visit to an orphanage that receives support from Christian Aid Ministries, the organization said. 400 Mawozo has demanded $1 million for the return of each victim.
Gédéon Jean, director of a Port-au-Prince think tank that tracks kidnapping, described the release as “a good step that indicates that the rest of the hostages could soon be free.”
“In general, 400 Mawozo hold the victims of group kidnappings for no longer than 15 days,” Jean said. “This is the first time that they kidnapped a group and they have kept them for more than a month.
“This is an indication that the negotiations are not easy,” Jean said.
U.S. and Canadian officials have said they are working closely with Haitian counterparts to secure the hostages’ freedom. The United States does not pay ransoms for kidnapped citizens.
State Department and FBI officials were on the ground in Haiti last month. The U.S. government has seen proof that at least some of the hostages were alive, Reuters reported this month, citing an unnamed senior Biden administration official.
“We welcome reports that two individuals held hostage in Haiti have been released,” a State Department spokesperson said, declining further comment. The Canadian Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to emailed questions.
Christian Aid Ministries did not respond to requests for comment.
“We cannot provide or confirm the names of those released, the reasons for their release, where they are from, or their current location,” the organization said in its statement. “We ask that those who have more specific information about the release and the individuals involved would safeguard that information.”