- The Washington Times - Monday, December 6, 2021

Three more U.S.-based missionaries were freed by their Haitian kidnappers Sunday evening, Berlin, Ohio-based Christian Aid Ministries said in a statement Monday.

Just two of the 17 hostages — 16 Americans and one Canadian, including three hostages under the age of 7 — had previously been released by the Haitian gang 400 Mawozo since their seizure on October 16. A leader of the gang has publicly demanded a $1 million ransom for the release of each hostage.

“We are thankful to God that three more hostages were released last night. Those who were released are safe and seem to be in good spirits,” the Ohio ministry said in a statement on its website Monday morning. “As with the previous release, we are not able to provide the names of the people released, the circumstances of the release, or any other details.”

The missionaries, who come from Amish, Mennonite and other conservative Anabaptist communities across the Midwest and Ontario, were taken while traveling by car northeast of the capital city of Port-au-Prince.

Street gangs such as 400 Mawozo have only grown more powerful as the Haitian government reels from the recent assassination of President Jovenel Moise, a massive earthquake and crushing fuel and consumer goods shortages that have devastated what is already one of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere.

On Sunday, The Associated Press reported that a gang leader known as “Ti Lapli” posted a YouTube video warning people not to cross in upcoming days through the Martissant community, which has been the site of violent clashes between warring gangs.

“Insecurity has increased,” the gang leader said in the video. “I invite the people of Martissant to stock up on food and gasoline. The next few days will be difficult. … We will not remain with our arms crossed in face of those who try to destroy us.”

The Biden administration has taken an active but low-key role in the effort to free the missionary hostages. President Biden was briefed on the kidnapping shortly after it occurred and an FBI team was dispatched to Haiti to work with local authorities trying to free the captives.

As in many such cases, the U.S. government is deeply reluctant to pay ransom for the release of hostages, fearing it will only encourage more such actions by the increasingly powerful Haitian gangs.

A videotaped message by 400 Mawozo leader Wilson Joseph in the days after the kidnapping only increased the urgency of the rescue effort.

“I will prefer to kill them and I will unload a big weapon to each of their heads,” Mr. Joseph said on the video

The missionary group was on a trip to a Christian Aid Ministries-sponsored orphanage about an hour outside of the capital when their vehicle was commandeered. The Ohio-based group on Friday marked the seventh week of captivity to those still being held and called for a three-day prayer vigil starting this week.

“As announced on Friday, we would like to focus the next three days on praying and fasting for the hostages,” the group said in its new message Monday morning. “Please continue to intercede for those who are still being held as well as those who have been released. We long for all the hostages to be reunited with their loved ones.”

• David R. Sands can be reached at dsands@washingtontimes.com.

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