Haitian gang releases 12 remaining US and Canadian hostages

Haitian gang releases 12 remaining US and Canadian hostages kidnapped in October after gang boss ‘Death Without Days’ demanded ransom of $1M per missionary

  • The last remaining 12 US and Canadian hostages have been released in Haiti
  • A group of 17 missionaries were kidnapped by a notorious gang on October 16
  • The 400 Mawozo demanded a ransom of $1 million per Christian Aid Ministries missionary
  • Details of the release remain unclear, including if the ransom was paid 
  • Both the US and Canadian governments have said they do not pay ransoms 
  • Christian Aid Ministries reported a revenue of more than $130 million in 2019
  • The gang’s leader Lanmò Sanjou or ‘Death Without Days’ has been wanted by police since December 2020 for assassination, kidnapping and vehicle theft

The remaining 12 American and Canadian missionaries from a group kidnapped in October in Haiti have been released, police said on Thursday, ending an ordeal that brought global attention to the Caribbean nation’s growing problem of gang abductions.

The group of 17 children and adults was taken after visiting an orphanage on a trip organized by Ohio-based Christian Aid Ministries (CAM).

They were abducted by a gang known as 400 Mawozo on October 16 – exactly two months before all were rescued. The group had demanded $1 million per missionary. It’s unclear if the ransom money was paid or not. 

Five of the hostages had already been freed in recent weeks, and the final dozen were found by authorities on a mountain called Morne à Cabrit, said police spokesman Garry Derosier. He declined to provide further details on the release. 

‘Join us in praising God that all seventeen of our loved ones are now safe,’ CAM said in a statement on Thursday. 

‘Thank you for your fervent prayers throughout the past two months. We hope to provide more information as we are able.’

The 400 Mawozo gang had demanded a ransom of $1 million per person. Pictured: People protested in October for the release of kidnapped missionaries near the missionaries’ headquarters in Titanyen, north of Port-au-Prince

The remaining 12 hostages kidnapped by the notorious ‘400 Mawozo’ gang in Haiti have been rescued. Pictured: People protest against kidnappings and a fuel crisis in Haiti in November

CAM, which is based in the US state of Ohio, said the hostages were 12 adults aged 18 to 48, and five children ranging in age from eight months to 15 years. 

The 400 Mawozo gang, which controls territory to the east of the capital Port-au-Prince, had said it was seeking a ransom of $1 million for each of the missionaries.

CAM has refused to comment on the circumstances surrounding their release – including whether a ransom was paid. The group has not responded to DailyMail.com for comment. 

Both the US and Canadian governments have said they do not pay ransoms for kidnapped citizens. But officials from the State Department and FBI have been working in Haiti to help secure the safe release of the hostages.

The gang’s leader, Wilson Joseph, aka Lanmò Sanjou or ‘Death Without Days,’ has appeared in internet videos wearing a Spider-Man mask, had said he was willing to kill the hostages. 

Haitian police have sought the gang’s leader since December 2020 for crimes including assassination, kidnapping, vehicle theft and hijacking of cargo trucks. 

Authorities said they were trying to negotiate with Joly ‘Yonyon’ Germine, a jailed gang member considered to be the second-in-command of 400 Mawozo.

Pictured: 400 Mawozo gang leader Wilson Joseph also known as Lanmò Sanjou stands in front of his fellow gang members in a video posted to YouTube

‘Death Without Days’ (right) is wanted on numerous charges including murder, attempted murder, kidnapping and auto theft 

Wilson Joseph aka Lanmò Sanjou has been wanted by Haitian police since December 2020

The widely-feared group, whose name loosely translates to ‘400 inexperienced men,’ is responsible for approximately 80 per cent of the kidnappings in Haiti and is often associated with ‘collective kidnappings’ in which they abduct entire cars or buses of people.

Members are known to use rape, assassination and abduction, among other methods, to maintain their hold on Haiti’s streets, businesses and power players.

Dan Hooley, a former CAM director, said that some of the missionaries had not been in Haiti for long. 

One family had lived there for ‘a couple of months,’ he told The Times, and another man had arrived on Friday to work on a relief project related to an earthquake that struck in August.

He described Christian Aid Ministries as ‘the big dog in the mission world,’ capable of importing containers full of medicines into Haiti whereas others ‘just can’t get it done.’

The group was founded in 1981 ‘to be a trustworthy and efficient channel for Amish, Mennonite, and other conservative Anabaptist groups and individuals to minister to physical and spiritual needs around the world.’

It reported a revenue of more than $130 million in 2019, largely through donations, and operates in 126 countries.

Ohio-based Christian Aid Ministries reported a revenue of more than $130 million in 2019

A person familiar with the situation claimed one of the abducted Americans posted a cry for help in a WhatsApp group as the kidnapping was occurring.

‘Please pray for us!! We are being held hostage, they kidnapped our driver. Pray pray pray. We don’t know where they are taking us,’ the abductee wrote. 

Gangs have extended their control of territory in Haiti since the assassination in July of President Jovenel Moise. One gang coalition in October created a nationwide fuel shortage by blocking access to storage terminals.

Haitians say everyone from well-heeled elites to working class street vendors face the threat of abduction by the gangs. 

The US State Department travel advisory warns US citizens to avoid visiting the Caribbean nation, noting ‘kidnapping is widespread and victims regularly include US citizens.’

Previously confined to the poorer districts of the capital, gangs have recently extended their reach and increased the number of kidnappings, as the country, already struggling with a years-long social and economic crisis, was hit by a presidential assassination and a major earthquake.

Hundreds of people have been kidnapped for ransom since January in Haiti, according to the Center for Analysis and Research in Human Rights (CARDH).

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