17 American missionaries and their family members were abducted by an armed gang in Haiti this weekend, The New York Times reports on the authority of Haitian security officers.
The Americans had visited an orphanage in the capital Port-au-Prince and were on their way to drop off a few people at the airport when the group was kidnapped. Among them are children too. Where the group is now is unknown. The U.S. Department of State has not yet responded to the abduction.
Abductions are more common in Haiti, a country that has sighed for years under political and economic crises and gang violence, but the abduction of such a large group of foreigners is exceptional. In recent years, public life has often been shut down by demonstrations against President Jovenel Moïse, who, according to many Haitians, did too little against corruption.
Last summer Moïse was murdered in his own home, an attack that has not yet been cleared up. Since then, the country has barely had a functioning government, and street violence has increased. Ransom citizen abductions is one of the ways gangs make money from lawlessness.
Gangs now have roughly half of the capital in control. Last Monday, a school bus was shot in the city, with at least five wounded. There was also a city bus hijacked by gang members that day. Many Haitians are now hoping for military intervention by the US to stabilize the country, but US President Biden does not see it for the time being.