After being kidnapped and held hostage by a dangerous Haitian gang for two months, the remaining captives of a group of 17 Christian missionaries have finally been freed.
What are the details?
A spokesman for the Haitian police, Gary Desrosiers, confirmed to CBS News on Thursday that the last 12 captives were set free this week. Two hostages had previously been released in November, and then three others were released earlier this month.
Christian Aid Ministries also confirmed the news in a celebratory statement Thursday, saying, "We glorify God for answered prayer — the remaining twelve hostages are FREE! Join us in praising God that all seventeen of our loved ones are now safe. Thank you for your fervent prayers throughout the past two months. We hope to provide more information as we are able."
The group then quoted a Bible verse, Exodus 15:1b, which says, “I will sing unto the Lord, for he hath triumphed gloriously."
Republican Rep. Bill Huizenga of Michigan, the home state of a few of the hostages, said in a statement Thursday, "Today is the day we have been hoping for, praying for, and working so hard to achieve."
"I want to thank members of the hostage negotiation team for their diligence in securing the safe release of all the hostages. This is a great day for families in Michigan and across the nation who have been worried about the safety of their loved ones," he added.
What's the background?
The missionaries, which consisted of 16 Americans and one Canadian — six men, six women, and five children — were kidnapped by members of the 400 Mawozo gang on Oct. 16 as they returned to home base from building an orphanage in Ganthier, Haiti, the Associated Press previously reported. Gang members reportedly seized the bus that the missionaries were driving.
The orphanage is reportedly located about an hour and a half from that Christian Aid Ministries Haiti base.
According to CNN, the captives were released at around 5 a.m. on Thursday and were found by locals who then alerted authorities. The gang initially demanded a ransom of $1 million per hostage, the network noted, adding that it is unclear if any ransom payment was ever sent.
The 400 Mawozo gang, which reportedly translates roughly to "400 inexperienced men," controls the Croix-des-Bouquets area that includes Ganthier, a commune where the gang often carries out kidnappings and carjackings.
Kidnappings as a whole are up in Haiti in 2021. The United Nations reported in October that nearly 800 people have been kidnapped already this year.
“There are so many Haitians terrorized by kidnappings and extreme levels of violence, even as the humanitarian and security crisis in Haiti continues to worsen,” Rep. Andy Levin (D-Mich.), founder and chair of the House Haiti Caucus told the Miami Herald.
“I reiterate my fervent belief that the United States and our international partners must work urgently to support Haitian-led efforts to bring about a real and accountable democracy that can bring peace and security to the Haitian people," he said.
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