Three more hostages kidnapped by a gang in Haiti have been released, the United States-based missionary group that organised their trip to the Caribbean nation said, while another 12 are still held.
“We are thankful to God that three more hostages were released last night,” Ohio-based Christian Aid Ministries said in a statement on Monday. “Those who were released are safe and seem to be in good spirits.”
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The group gave no further details and said it could not name the people who were released or provide information about the circumstances under which they were freed.
Sixteen Americans and one Canadian, including five children, were abducted after visiting an orphanage in Haiti in October.
On November 21, the religious organisation announced that 400 Mawozo, the gang responsible for the abductions and one of Haiti’s most powerful criminal factions, had released the first two hostages.
Christian Aid Ministries, an Anabaptist missions organisation, reiterated its request for supporters to devote Monday through Wednesday as days of prayer and fasting “to intercede for those who are still being held as well as those who have been released”.
The leader of the 400 Mawozo gang has threatened to kill the hostages unless his demands are met. Authorities have said the gang was seeking $1m per person, although it was not immediately clear if that included the children in the group.
The abductions sparked protests highlighting Haiti’s dire kidnapping problem, which has worsened in recent months amid economic troubles and political upheaval.
The Haitian government and police have struggled to control gangs that have blocked fuel distribution terminals. Last month, the US urged its citizens to leave Haiti amid the deepening crisis.
On Sunday, a gang leader known as “Ti Lapli” posted a YouTube video warning people not to cross through the Martissant community, which has been the site of violent clashes between warring gangs.
“Insecurity has increased,” the gang leader said. “I invite the people of Martissant to stock up on food and gasoline. The next few days will be difficult … We will not remain with our arms crossed in face of those who try to destroy us.”