As many as 17 American missionaries, including women and children, were reportedly kidnapped in Haiti over the weekend, according to a message sent to several religious missions.
The missionaries were on their way home from building an orphanage when the incident occurred, the Ohio-based Christian Aid Ministries said in a message.
“This is a special prayer alert,” said a message on WhatsApp, a screenshot of which was seen by The Epoch Times. “Pray that the gang members would come to repentance.” The message also said that women and children were among those kidnapped.
The 400 Mawozo gang kidnapped the group—which also included some elderly people—in Ganthier, a commune that lies east of the capital of Port-au-Prince, Haitian police inspector Frantz Champagne told The Associated Press. The gang, whose name roughly translates to 400 “inexperienced men,” controls the Croix-des-Bouquets area that includes Ganthier, where they carry out kidnappings and carjackings and extort business owners, according to authorities.
The Christian group’s message stated that the mission’s field director is now working with the U.S. Embassy in Haiti. No other details were immediately available.
The U.S. State Department, in a statement to media outlets, confirmed it was aware of reports about the kidnapping.
“The welfare and safety of U.S. citizens abroad is one of the highest priorities of the Department of State,” the spokesperson said in a statement, without offering additional comment. Department officials didn’t immediately respond to a request by The Epoch Times for comment.
The Washington Post and CNN first reported on the kidnapping.
The U.S. Embassy in Haiti hasn’t responded to a request for comment. Christian Aid Ministries also didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Earlier this month, the United Nations Integrated Office in Haiti said that kidnappings have sharply risen in Haiti in recent months after the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moise and a 7.2 magnitude earthquake.