As many as 17 American missionaries have been reported kidnapped by gang members in Haiti on Saturday, including 14 adults and three minors. The missionaries were traveling by vehicle to Titanyen, north of the capital Port-au-Prince, after visiting an orphanage in the Croix des Bouquets area. One of the abducted missionaries, an American citizen, posted a call for help in a WhatsApp group as the kidnapping was occurring. A U.S. government spokesperson said they were aware of the reports on the kidnapping.. Kidnappings have surged in Haiti throughout 2021. Gangs have demanded ransoms ranging from a couple hundred dollars to more than $1 million, according to authorities.
Earlier this month, Haitian Foreign Minister Claude Joseph called on the United Nations Security Council to strengthen the mandate of the UN special political mission in his country to help ensure security and protection for civilians. At least 328 kidnapping victims were reported to Haiti’s National Police in the first eight months of 2021. On Friday, the U.N. Security Council voted unanimously to extend the U.N. political mission in Haiti. The kidnapping of the missionaries comes just days after high-level U.S. officials visited Haiti and promised more resources for Haiti’s National Police, including another $15 million to help reduce gang violence. A gang blamed for kidnapping five priests and two nuns earlier this year in Haiti is now accused. A senior U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the United States is in touch with Haitian authorities to try to resolve the case.