UPDATED 3:00 PM PT – Thursday, December 16, 2021
A group of Haitian kidnappers released the remaining hostages held captive for ransom money. On Thursday, Haitian Police and the Christian Aid Ministries both said all 17 missionaries that were being held hostage by the Haitian gang had now been freed.
Five missionaries had been released prior to Thursday, leaving 12 still captive.
Christian Aid Ministries said the 17 missionaries abducted on Oct. 16 included five children ranging from eight-months to 15-years-old. The 400 Mawozo Gang threatened to kill the hostages if they didn’t receive a $17 million ransom. Early in the kidnapping, U.S. authorities reached out to the gang regarding the group’s release.
“We have [in the administration] been relentlessly focused on this, including sending a team to Haiti from the State Department, working very closely with the FBI, which is the lead in these kinds of matters,” stated White House Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre. “In constant communication with the Haitian National Police, the church that the missionaries belong to as well as the Haitian government and we will do everything that we can to help resolve the situation.”
The 400 Mawozo, which loosely translates as the “400 Simpletons,” kidnapped the 16 American missionaries and one Canadian missionary while they were visiting an orphanage outside the capital Port Au Prince. The gang is responsible for a number of violent kidnappings and extortion plots throughout the impoverished nation over the last few years, including the kidnapping of five priests and two nuns earlier this year.
It is unclear whether any ransom money was paid to the gang during hostage negotiations.