The Haitian gang responsible for kidnapping a group of U.S. and Canadian missionaries and several children has demanded $17 million for their release. Justice Minister Liszt Quitel told the Wall Street Journal that officials have been in contact with members of the 400 Mawozo gang, and they are demanding a $1 million ransom for every hostage.
The group of 16 Americans and one Canadian were abducted as they were returning from a trip to an orphanage near the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince. The group includes five children, the youngest of which is eight months old.
The FBI has joined the effort to free the hostages and is working along with the U.S. State Department and Haitian law enforcement agencies.
Kidnappings have skyrocketed in Haiti over the past year, with a massive uptick following the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse and a 7.2 earthquake over the summer. According to Yahoo! News, there have been at least 628 kidnappings in 2021, though just 29 of the victims were foreign nationals.
On Monday (October 18), Haitians took the streets in a general strike to protest the surge in crime. They are demanding local officials to stand up to the violent gangs that have taken control of many areas of the country.