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Haitian gang leader says he will kill captive missionaries if he doesn’t get what he wants


The video was taken Wednesday at a funeral for gang members he alleges were killed at the hands of police, a Haitian security force source tells CNN.

The missionary group, which includes several children, has been held captive since Saturday. A spokesman for their organization, Christian Aid Ministries, declined to comment to CNN on the gang leader’s remarks.

The missionaries was kidnapped over the weekend by the 400 Mawozo gang, while traveling by car northeast of capital city Port-au-Prince. Their captors have demanded $1 million per hostage, according to Haitian Justice and Interior Minister Liszt Quitel.

Among the kidnapped are an 8-month-old infant, a 3-year-old and a 6-year-old, as well as two young teenagers. All of the group’s members hail from Amish, Mennonite and other conservative Anabaptist communities across six US states and Ontario, according to Weston Showalter, a Christian Aid Ministries official.

The threat follows the first public statement by the victims’ families, who on Thursday thanked supporters and describing the kidnapping as a “unique opportunity” to show compassion.

“God has given our loved ones the unique opportunity to live out our Lord’s command to love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you,” the families said in a message read outside of the Ohio headquarters of Christian Aid Ministries.
An entrance to the Christian Aid Ministries compound in Titanyen, on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

Quitel said Haitian police negotiators and the FBI are involved in helping to resolve the kidnapping, which has focused global attention on an epidemic of gang violence and insecurity in the impoverished Caribbean nation.

At least 782 people were kidnapped in Haiti between January 1 and October 16, according to the latest estimates by the Port-au-Prince organization Center for Analysis and Research for Human Rights (CARDH). At least 53 were foreign nationals.

Kidnappings for ransom have spiked in recent months following the assassination of Haiti’s president in July, according to CARDH. At least 119 kidnappings were recorded in the first half of October alone, including 10 group kidnappings in just two days in the Port-au-Prince neighborhood of Martissant.

The gang 400 Mawozo in particular has become notorious for group kidnappings, forcing whole buses off the road, according to CARDH.

Father Michel Briand, a French priest who survived his own kidnapping by 400 Mawozo this spring, points to poverty and inequality as drivers of crime in a country where many Haitians live on the equivalent of a few dollars per day.

“The problem in Haiti is that what is abnormal has become normal, that which is illegal has become a part of daily life, and seeds trouble in the country. (The kidnappers) are doing a job. It’s a means of subsistence.”

He and several other priests and nuns were held for more than two weeks in April before being released. He says his captors began to withhold food toward the end, which he believes to have been a pressure tactic.

“If the kidnapped missionaries are together, their captivity will be easier and they can comfort each other. But they must not lose hope. The kidnappers play with time and play on people’s nerves and the nerves of the negotiators,” he said.

Briand, who has lived in Haiti for more than 30 years, also blamed the Haitian government for failing to put a stop to the rash of kidnapping. “Things seem out of their control,” he told CNN. “One day, the whole country will be a hostage.”

The government is working tirelessly to bring a peaceful solution to the current kidnapping, Quitel said.

But there little doubt about the immense power exerted by well-armed Haitian gangs in the country’s capital. On the same weekend as the Christian Aid Ministries kidnapping, security concerns forced Prime Minister Ariel Henry to backtrack on plans to lay a wreath for the Haitian Revolution leader Jean-Jacques Dessalines at a memorial located in a gang-controlled area of Port-au-Prince.

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