A group of American and Canadian missionaries was kidnapped as they returned from an orphanage near the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince. They were traveling in vehicles when they were ambushed by gang members. Authorities said that 16 Americans and one Canadian were among those kidnapped.
"The group of sixteen U.S. citizens and one Canadian citizen includes five men, seven women, and five children," the Ohio-based Christian Aid Ministries said in a statement.
Law enforcement officials said that the 400 Mawozo gang was responsible for the brazen kidnapping. They said that the gang has been involved in numerous mass kidnappings following the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse in July. So far, in 2021, authorities have received reports of 328 abductions in the country. That number is higher than the total number of kidnappings reported in 2020.
The U.S. State Department does not know the location of the kidnapping victims and is in contact with Haitian authorities. The FBI is also providing assistance in locating the missionaries.
"The welfare and safety of U.S. citizens abroad is one of the highest priorities of the Department of State. We are aware of these reports and have nothing additional to offer at this time," a spokesperson for the State Department said in a statement.