A Haitian criminal gang suspected of kidnapping 16 American missionaries and 1 Canadian allegedly did the same to many more earlier in the year.
Authorities confirmed seven women, six men and five children are the latest Mawozo 400 abductees so far in 2021. They were abducted after visiting an orphanage they had helped build in the Croix-des-Bouquets area of the capitol Port-au-Prince, on Oct. 16.
Haitian police revealed hundreds more have been kidnapped, car jacked, and extorted for money since the beginning of the year.
“Pray that the gang members would come to repentance,” Ohio-based Christian Aid Ministries said in a statement obtained by NBC News. “Join us in praying for those who are being held hostage, the kidnappers, and the families, friends, and churches of those affected. Pray for those who are seeking God’s direction and making decisions regarding this matter.”
The U.S. State Department confirmed the kidnappings and is trying to reach a peaceful solution.
“We have been in regular contact with senior Haitian authorities, and will continue to work with them and interagency partners,” a representative said according to the broadcaster.
The missionaries had recently returned to Haiti after being absent for nine months due to “uncertainty and difficulties” in the Caribbean country.
Haiti has been plagued with crime waves and kidnappings. At least 328 kidnappings were reported, surpassing the 234 recorded in the first nine months of 2020 according to the local United Nations Integrated Office–BINUH.
“Everybody is worried, they are kidnapping in all social classes,” Haitian Owners and Drivers Association president Méhu Changeux said according to the Magik9 radio station.
Local unions and other organizations now plan to strike on Oct. 18. They want authorities to take tougher action on the escalating national security situation.
Wilson Joseph allegedly leads the 400 Mawozo gang. Joseph (also known as Lanmò Sanjou, meaning ‘death does not know what day will come’) is wanted for murder, attempted murder, kidnapping, car theft, and stealing truckloads of goods.
He previously claimed responsibility for the April kidnapping of five priests, two nuns and three relatives who have since been released. Hostage ransoms start at $200 per person.