Haiti, which holds the tragic title of highest per capita kidnapping rate in the world, is once again in the news. According to the latest report, as many as 17 Christian Missionaries from the U.S. have been kidnapped by a gang on Saturday in Haiti's capital of Port-au-Prince, where kidnappings have become increasingly common.
The kidnapping happened on Saturday (Oct. 16) as the missionaries were leaving an orphanage in the poorest country in the Americas, The New York Times said.
They were kidnapped from a bus headed to the airport to drop off some members of the group before continuing to another destination in Haiti, a report by the Times stated, citing security officials.
Who's Behind the Kidnappings?
The AFP news agency, also citing a security source, said the group is being held by an armed gang that for months has been engaged in theft and kidnappings in the area between Port-au-Prince and the border with the Dominican Republic.
Jennifer Viau, a spokesperson for the U.S. State Department in Washington, said by email that "we're looking into this." A spokesperson for the Haitian police said she was seeking information on the issue, reported Reuters.
The Associated Press reported that an organization with direct knowledge of the incident had sent a voice message to a number of religious groups.
"This is a special prayer alert," the one-minute message from Ohio-based Christian Aid Ministries said.
It said, "The mission field director and the American embassy are working to see what can be done. "Pray that the gang members would come to repentance."
A U.S. government spokesperson told the AP news agency, "The welfare and safety of US citizens abroad is one of the highest priorities of the Department of State."
The details on the missionaries or their church are not available yet.
Resurgence in Gang-Related Kidnappings
There has been 'unprecedented' rise in gang violence across Haiti's capital Port-au-Prince. Civilians have been threatened, injured, sexually assaulted or killed, and homes have been looted and burned, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and local partners.
In September, a deacon was killed in front of a church in the capital and his wife was kidnapped.
The violence in the entire country has accelerated after the assassination of President Jovenel Moise in July and an earthquake in August which killed more than 2,000 people.
As per a latest UN report, at least 328 kidnapping victims were reported to Haitian police in the first eight months of 2021, compared with a total of 234 for all of 2020.
Mass Expulsion of Haitians Migrants from Texas
Last month, thousands of Haitian migrants gathered on both sides of the US-Mexico border at Del Rio in southern Texas in hopes of gaining asylum in the United States. However, there were horrifying images that showed United States border guards using whip-like horse reins to threaten migrants from Haiti. The images were slammed as 'inhumane' and 'horrific,' despite the Texas Border Patrol agents vehemently denying that they whipped migrants.