(CMC) – Haitian authorities, backed by members of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), were on Wednesday continuing negotiations with members of a gang that kidnapped a group of American missionaries and their families last weekend.
“The kidnappers want one million per person released, which equates to US$17 million for all hostages,” said Justice and Interior Minister, Liszt Quitel.
Media reports said that the gang, “400 mawozo”, had carried out the kidnapping of the foreigners, including four children, aged eight months old to 15 years, last Saturday as they travelled by bus on the road to Ganthier.
Quitel said that the FBI and the Haitian National Police were negotiating with the kidnappers and trying to obtain the release of the 16 American and one Canadian hostage.
He warned that the negotiations “could last for weeks”, adding “the first plan of the action is to obtain their release without ransom.
“Because let’s be honest, if we give them all the money they want, it will be used to buy more weapons and ammunition,” he added.
Kidnapping has become a lucrative business for criminal gangs in the French-speaking Caricom country where economic and political instability has fuelled an environment of lawlessness.
Earlier this week, several organisations, including the Association of Owners and Drivers of Haiti (APCH) and the Unified Movement of Transporters of Haiti (MUTH) staged work stoppages to force the authorities to address the problem of security and kidnappings as well as the scarcity of fuel.