A Haitian kidnapping ring is demanding $17 million in ransom for American missionaries who have been kidnapped. Liszt Quitel, the Justice Minister, stated that the FBI and Haitian police are in communication with the kidnappers and are attempting to secure the return of the missionaries, who were taken last weekend just outside the capital Port-au-Prince by a group known as 400 Mawozo. Mr. Quitel said there are five children among the missionaries, one of which is an eight-month-old baby and the others are three, six, fourteen, and fifteen years old.

President Biden has been briefed, according to White House press secretary Jen Psaki, and the FBI will assist Haitian officials in investigating the kidnapping and attempting to negotiate a release.

“The FBI is part of a concerted United States government operation to bring U.S. citizens involved to safety,” she explained. Negotiations, according to Mr. Quitel, might last many weeks. “We’re attempting to get them released without paying a ransom,” Mr. Quitel explained. “This is the initial plan of action. Let’s be honest: if we give them that money, it will be used to buy more guns and ammunition.”                                                                                                       He stated that Haitian officials are hoping for a similar conclusion to what occurred after the abduction of a group of Catholic priests and nuns by the same gang in early April. At the end of the month, the five priests, two nuns, and three of their relatives were released. Mr. Quitel stated that just two of the priests were held for ransom.

The headquarters of Christian Aid Ministries in Berlin, Ohio, on Monday. Photo: KRIS MAHER/THE WALL STREET JOURNAL                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                “That would be the best case scenario,” he remarked. According to Mr. Quitel, the missionaries, who are part of the Ohio-based Christian Aid Ministries, are being held in a safe place just outside Croix-des-Bouquets, a Port-au-Prince suburb controlled by 400 Mawazo and near where they were kidnapped by highly armed men around midday on Saturday. Kidnappings in the impoverished country, especially those targeting foreigners, have increased in recent months as a result of the political turmoil caused by the killing of President Jovenel Mose in July. Gangs now dominate a growing portion of the chronically unstable country.                                        Port-au- The city of Prince came to a halt on Monday when a national transportation union called a strike supported by everyone from bank employees to human-rights organisations in response to an increase in kidnappings and a lack of security. Schools, banks, restaurants, and supermarkets in the city were closed, and neighbouring highways were blocked by union members and ordinary civilians outraged by the violence, according to Haitians. The transportation union’s chairman, Changeux Mehu, said the walkout could continue on Tuesday in order to put pressure on Prime Minister Ariel Henry’s government to enhance security.                  “If the prime minister does not meet our requests, we will call on him to resign,” Mr. Mehu stated. “We want an end to the insecurity and kidnappings.” According to Haitian officials, the 400 Mawozo gang has increasingly turned to kidnapping for ransom in recent months. It kidnapped five priests and two nuns earlier this year, including two French nationals, and held them captive for three weeks before releasing them. It is unknown whether the ransom was paid.                                                                                                            According to Gédéon Jean of the Center for Analysis and Research in Human Rights, a Port-au-Prince-based organisation that tracks kidnappings in Haiti, Mawozo means “from the countryside” in Haitian Creole, reflecting the gang’s roots in the eastern district of Croix-des-Bouquets, where they began their activities by stealing cattle before moving on to car theft and, more recently, kidnappings for ransom. The Christian organisation, formed by Amish and Mennonite members, said in a statement on Monday that Haitian and US officials were aware of the situation and were working to resolve it. “We continue to closely watch the situation and are praying fervently,” it said.                                                                                                                        The doors to the foyer at the group’s headquarters in Berlin, Ohio, in a lovely region of farms and Amish shops catering to tourists, were shut Monday, and a sign indicated it was closed as a result of the kidnapping and asked for prayers. Wanda Cross, a 24-year-old Mennonite from Minerva, Ohio, delivered donated clothing to the headquarters of Christian Aid Ministries on Monday. Ms. Cross, who was born in Haiti and adopted by a Mennonite family in the United States, said she was surprised to learn of the kidnappings and that one couple from Oregon was among those abducted.                                                                                                      “It’s heartbreaking,” she remarked. “I just want to go there and talk to these gangs.” Ms. Cross stated that she returned to her native country in April, during what she characterised as a pause in the disturbance, to see her birth mother and visit a school. She said she learned about kidnappings in the same areas of Haiti that she had visited two days after returning to the United States in April.