The Haitian gang that grabbed 17 missionaries on Saturday wants $1 million apiece for their return, according to a new report.
Those taken include five children, Quitel said: an 8-month baby and the others ages 3, 6, 14 and 15.
Gèdèon Jean, executive director of the Center for Analysis and Research in Human Rights, had said the ransom figure was expected, according to The New York Times.
The gang that took the missionaries, known as 400 Mawozo, kidnapped five priests and two nuns earlier this year and demanded a similar ransom per person, according to the Times. Qunitel said ransom was paid for the priests but did not give an amount.
“That was the big sign they can do what they want,” said Timothy Schwartz, an anthropologist and consultant with more than 20 years in Haiti. “Now they’re taking the next step with the Americans.”
The gang is led by Wilson Joseph, who is also known as “Death Without Days.” He is wanted on charges that include murder, attempted murder, kidnapping, auto theft and hijacking trucks, according to the Daily Mail.
The group, which is blamed for about 80 percent of Haiti’s kidnappings, targeted the missionaries because the group sponsoring them is seen as being wealthy enough to afford a large ransom.
🇭🇹 El New York Times, citando a fuentes policiales, atribuye el secuestro al grupo 400 Mawozo (vídeo). Este grupo secuestró en abril a 10 personas, entre los que se encontraban religiosos y dos ciudadanos franceses. pic.twitter.com/6pkopWLPW5
— Descifrando la Guerra (@descifraguerra) October 19, 2021
Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois said the U.S. government should play a lead role in freeing the hostages.
“We need to track down where they are and see if negotiations without paying ransom are possible or do whatever we need to on the military front or police front,” he said, according to the Times.
Jean said kidnapping is all too common in Haiti, with 628 people abducted this year.
“The motive behind the surge in kidnappings for us is a financial one,” he said. “The gangs need money to buy ammunition, to get weapons, to be able to function.”
“They are going to be freed — that’s for sure,” Jean said. “We don’t know in how many days, but they’re going to negotiate.”
Quitel said that could take some time.
“We are trying to get them released without paying any ransom,” he said. “This is the first course of action. Let’s be honest: When we give them that money, that money is going to be used for more guns and more munitions.”
Michel Briand, a French priest who was part of the group kidnapped earlier this year, said death was a real danger.
This paramilitary death squad (“gang”) called “400 Mawozo” kidnapped 5 priests, 2 nuns, and 3 relatives of one of the priests, for a $1M ransom. A priest and a nun are French nationals. This was the US / Clinton Foundation post-earthquake “development” plan for #Haiti. https://t.co/4fMzF9BjFm pic.twitter.com/IXllK006aq
— Madame Boukman – Justice 4 Haiti 🇭🇹 (@madanboukman) April 12, 2021
“If we hadn’t obeyed them — that’s what they told us afterward — they would have shot us,” he said.
Should the ransom be paid?
Christian Aid Ministries responded to the kidnapping with a call to prayer.
The group said it would pray that those holding its members hostage would “find the strength to demonstrate God’s love.”
“In a world where violence and force are seen as the solution to problems, we believe in God’s call to Christians to ‘… not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good,’” the group said, using the language of Romans 12:21, according to Fox News.
“The kidnappers, like all people, are created in the image of God and can be changed if they turn to Him,” Christian Aid Ministries said. “While we desire the safe release of our workers, we also desire that the kidnappers be transformed by the love of Jesus, the only source of peace, joy, and forgiveness.”