The Haitian gang that kidnapped 17 members of a U.S.-based missionary group is demanding $17 million for their safe return, The Wall Street Journal reports. Haiti Justice Minister Liszt Quitel told the outlet and The New York Times that the gang is demanding $1 million for each abducted person.
In his interview, Quitel also confirmed to The Journal that the kidnapped children range in age from 8 months to 15 years old.
As reported by REVOLT, FBI agents and other U.S. officials are currently working with Haitian authorities to search for the seven women, five men and five children who were abducted. The missionary group is reportedly linked to the Christian Aid Ministries in Ohio and members of the group were kidnapped on Saturday (Oct. 16) while visiting an orphanage.
A strike formed in Haiti on Monday (Oct. 18), The Grio writes, to protest growing gang violence and killings that have reportedly spiked in the months following President Jovenel Moïse’s assassination.
“We are calling on authorities to take action,” a taxi driver named Jean-Louis Abaki, who joined in on the strike, told The Journal. “[Prime Minister Ariel Henry and National Police Chief Léon Charles] have to give the population a chance at security.”
According to the Associated Press, Haitian police believe the 400 Mawozo gang is responsible for the kidnapping. Abductions in the country have been on the rise, The Grio writes, as at least 328 kidnappings have been reported to Haiti’s National Police this year so far, as opposed to 234 kidnappings in all of 2020.
U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price said on Monday that U.S. officials have been in constant communication with Haitian police and the kidnapped victims’ families.
“This is something that we have treated with the utmost priority since Saturday,” he said. “[We’re doing] all we can to seek a quick resolution to this.”
On Sunday (Oct. 17), the Christian Aid Ministries asked supporters to pray for the victims. “Join us in praying for those who are being held hostage, the kidnappers and the families, friends and churches of those affected,” it read. “We are seeking God’s direction for a resolution and authorities are seeking ways to help.”