The Royal Canadian Mounted Police say they are collaborating with Haitian and American authorities after a Canadian missionary was kidnapped east of the capital of Port-au-Prince over the weekend in gang-related violence.
The Canadian was among 17 Christian Aid Ministries missionaries who were abducted by the notoriously violent 400 Mawozo gang as they were leaving an orphanage on a commune in Croix-des-Bouquets on Sunday. The rest were U.S. citizens.
“The RCMP takes this situation very seriously and is collaborating with Haitian and American policing authorities on this incident,” a police spokesperson said on Tuesday, in an emailed statement to Global News.
The RCMP said it would not provide further details, as the police unit “does not comment on ongoing investigations conducted by other countries.”
In an updated statement, Christian Aid Ministries said the five children who were abducted ranged from eight months to 15 years of age. The 12 adults being held captive, who consisted of five men and seven women, ranged from 18 to 48 years old.
The Ohio-based religious group said the work done by the missionaries supported “thousands of needy school children, distributing Bibles and Christian literature, supplying medicines for numerous clinics, teaching Haitian pastors, and providing food for the elderly and vulnerable.”
In recent months, Christian Aid Ministries said they were “actively involved in coordinating a rebuilding project for those who lost their homes in the August 2021 earthquake.”
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Tuesday that FBI tactical teams are in Port Au Prince negotiating for the safe release of all 17 missionaries.
“We know these groups target U.S. citizens who they assume have the resources and finances to pay ransoms, even if that is not the case,” she said.
A top Haitian official told the Associated Press on Tuesday that the 400 Mawozo gang is demanding a ransom of US$17 million — one million for each kidnapped missionary.
In an emailed statement to Global News, Global Affairs Canada said officials were in contact with the Canadian’s family and providing them with consular assistance.
“Our first priority is always the safety and security of Canadian citizens. Global Affairs Canada is aware that a Canadian citizen was kidnapped in Haiti,” the statement read.
“Canada takes this situation very seriously and is collaborating with Haitian and American policing authorities as well as implicated NGOs on this incident.”
Inter-gang violence accounts for roughly 75 per cent of 549 instances of major crime and civil unrest between May and August of this year, according to a report issued last month by the United Nations Integrated Office in Haiti.
Similarly, kidnappings are also on the rise. The report found there were 328 documented kidnappings in the first eight months of 2021, compared with 234 for all of 2020.
The abduction of the 17 missionaries, however, was the largest reported in recent years.
In April, five priests and two nuns, including two French citizens, were also abducted in Croix-des-Bouquets, but they were released later that month.
— With files from the Associated Press and Reuters