Gang leader, Wilson Joseph, expected to demand $1million ransom for each hostage – His ‘400 Mawozo’ gang abducted 17 American and Canadian missionaries, including children, in Haiti on Saturday
Gang leader ‘Death Without Days’ will demand $1million ransom for each of the
17 American and Canadian missionaries, 12 adults and five children, were abducted by his gang in Port au Prince the Haitian capital on Saturday
Captives were forced out of bus at gunpoint after visiting an orphanage on Saturday outside Port-au-Prince Gang leader ‘Death Without Days’ will demand $1million ransom for each of th e
Authorities suspect they were snatched by the notorious 400 Mawozo gang, who have history of kidnappings
Gang’s leader Wilson Joseph, aka Wilson Joseph, and Lanmò San Jou or ‘Death Without Days’ is wanted on numerous charges including murder, attempted murder, kidnapping and auto theft
Missionaries belong to Ohio-based Christian Aid Ministries, an extremely well-funded global organization
One expert said the gangsters ‘are going to negotiate,’ adding that the group ‘are going to be freed – for sure’
A gang Haiti suspected to be behind the kidnapping of 17 American and Canadian missionaries in Port au Prince over the weekend will demand a ransom of up to $1 million per head, experts believe.
The captives are missionaries from the Ohio-based Christian Aid Ministries and include five children, the youngest just two years old. They were forced out of a bus at gunpoint after visiting an orphanage on Saturday in the suburbs of the capital, Port-au-Prince.
Groups that follow kidnappings in Haiti believe they are being held in the town of Croix-des-Bouquets, which is controlled by the notorious 400 Mawozo gang.
Authorities suspect the missionaries were snatched by the gang, whose thugs have abducted dozens of people already this year, including foreign nationals. Significantly, in recent months 400 Mawozo has targeted clergy and other Christian worshippers.
On Saturday 16 Americans and one Canadian citizen were abducted in Port au Prince – Six men, six women and five children. were abducted. The hostages belong to Christian Aid Ministries, a global missionary organization in Millersburg, Ohio, that was founded by Amish and Mennonites.
Gèdèon Jean, the executive director of the Center for Analysis and Research in Human Rights, an advocacy group in Port-au-Prince, speculated in an interview with the The New York Times, that the kidnappers could ask as much as $1 million per hostage in ransom for each of the 17 hostages.
Identifying the potential mastermind of the audacious kidnap-for-ransom scheme, he alleged that Wilson Joseph, aka Lanmò San Jou or ‘Death Without Days,’ leader of The 400 Mawozo gang, is behind the kidnapping of 17 missionaries in the Haitian capital over the weekend.
‘The hostages are going to be freed – that’s for sure. We don’t know in how many days, but they’re going to negotiate,’ Gèdèon Jean, said.
‘The 400 Mawozo gang don’t want to kill the hostages. Nowadays the gangs, especially in a situation that is a little financially vulnerable, they increase kidnappings to have enough money.
‘So the motive behind the surge in kidnappings for us is a financial one, if the gangs need money to buy ammunition, to get weapons, to be able to function.’
Authorities on Sunday night said they were trying to negotiate with Joly ‘Yonyon’ Germine, a jailed gang member considered to be the second in the gang’s chain of command.
The widely-feared group, whose name loosely translates to ‘400 inexperienced men,’ is responsible for approximately 80 percent of the kidnappings in Haiti and is often associated with ‘collective kidnappings’ in which they abduct entire cars or buses of people.
The gang’s leader Wilson Joseph, aka Lanmò San Jou or ‘Death Without Days’ – who is wanted by Haitian police on numerous charges including murder, attempted murder, kidnapping, auto theft and the hijacking of trucks carrying goods – is known for touting the gang’s crimes on social media.
Intimidation is their calling card, members are known to use rape, assassination and abduction, among other methods, to consolidate their stranglehold on Haiti’s streets, businesses and power players.
The significance can not be ignored that the kidnapping of the missionaries comes just days after high-level U.S. officials visited Haiti and promised more resources for Haiti’s National Police, including another $15 million to help reduce gang violence, which this year has displaced thousands of Haitians who now live in temporary shelters in increasingly unhygienic conditions.
A senior U.S. official, speaking to AP on the condition of anonymity, said the government is in touch with Haitian authorities to try to resolve the case.
Meanwhile, the U.S. State Department on Sunday evening confirmed the kidnapping incident in Haiti, as hostage negotiators were summoned.
The missionaries – who belong to the Ohio-based Christian Aid Ministries, an extremely well-funded global organization founded by Amish and Mennonites in 1981 – were abducted Saturday from a bus headed to the airport to drop off some members of their party.
The missionaries were traveling from the Croix des Bouquets area, where they had been building an orphanage, to the Port-au-Prince airport. They were abducted near Carrefour Boen and La Tremblay 17 on the road to Ganthier
A source says one of the abducted Americans posted a cry for help in a WhatsApp group as the kidnapping was occurring.
‘Please pray for us!! We are being held hostage, they kidnapped our driver. Pray pray pray. We don’t know where they are taking us,’ the abductee wrote.
In a statement Sunday on its website, Christian Aid Ministries said: ‘Join us in praying for those who are being held hostage, the kidnappers and the families, friends and churches of those affected.
‘We request urgent prayer for the group of Christian Aid Ministries workers who were abducted while on a trip to visit an orphanage on Saturday, October 16. We are seeking God’s direction for a resolution, and authorities are seeking ways to help.’
Dan Hooley, a former director for the group, said that some of the missionaries had not been in Haiti for long.
One family had lived there for ‘a couple of months,’ he told The Times, and another man had arrived on Friday to work on a relief project related to an earthquake that struck in August.
He described Christian Aid Ministries as ‘the big dog in the mission world,’ capable of importing containers full of medicines into Haiti whereas others ‘just can’t get it done.’
The group was founded in 1981 ‘to be a trustworthy and efficient channel for Amish, Mennonite, and other conservative Anabaptist groups and individuals to minister to physical and spiritual needs around the world.’
It reported a revenue of more than $130 million in 2019, largely through donations, and operates in 126 countries.
It is unclear if the kidnapping victims were chosen because of the mission’s net worth, although Haiti has one of the highest rates of kidnapping in the world, with middle class members of the public often targeted by gangs in the hope of a small ransom. Christian Aid Missionaries’ balance sheet reportedly shows the group has $87 million in assets as of December 2020.
n the balance sheet Christian Aid Ministries came under public scrutiny in 2019, when one of the group’s former workers based in Haiti was convicted of felony sexual abuse against minors in Ohio.
That sex offender. Jeriah Mast, 40, is serving a nine-year sentence in an Ohio prison. Expounding on the scale of his abuse, the defendant allegedly, told the judge during the hearing, that he also molested at least 30 boys in Haiti in the span of about 15 years.
The religious organization said in a May 2020 statement that it had reached an out-of-court settlement with victims regarding a sexual abuse case in the Haitian community of Petit Goave and had provided other victims with a total of $420,000 in restitution and other assistance.
The missionaries were traveling along the road from Ganthier to Croix-des-Bouquets when they were seized. Croix-des-Bouquets is known to be under the control of the 400 Mawozo gang
Authorities on Sunday night said they were trying to negotiate with the gang. The executive director of the Center for Analysis and Research in Human Rights, an advocacy group in Port-au-Prince, said: ‘The hostages are going to be freed – that’s for sure. We don’t know in how many days, but they’re going to negotiate’
Haiti has the highest per-capita kidnapping rate worldwide.
Kidnappings in the country have increased 300 percent between July and September, when at least 221 abductions recorded.
In September, a deacon was killed in front of a church in the capital of Port-au-Prince and his wife kidnapped, one of dozens of people who have been abducted in recent months.
At least 328 kidnappings were reported to Haiti’s National Police in the first eight months of 2021, compared with a total of 234 for all of 2020, according to a report issued last month by the United Nations Integrated Office in Haiti known as BINUH.
Gangs have been accused of kidnapping schoolchildren, doctors, police officers, busloads of passengers and others as they grow more powerful. In April, a man who claimed to be the gang leader of the 400 Mawozo told a radio station that they were responsible for kidnapping five priests, two nuns and three relatives of one of the priests that month. They were later released.
The spike in kidnappings and gang-related violence has forced Haitians to take detours around certain gang-controlled areas while others simply opt to stay home, which in turn means less money for operators of public transportation in the country.
The rise in abductions has coincided with the nation’s deepening political instability following the July 7 brutal assassination of President Jovenel Moïse in his own bed.
That development also increased the profitability of crime, raising the street profile of the dare-devil bandits, as gangs have demanded ransoms ranging from a couple of hundred dollars to more than $1 million, according to authorities.
Port-au-Prince is now posting more kidnappings in absolute terms than Bogotá, Mexico City and São Paulo combined , according to the consulting firm Control Risks.
At least 328 kidnapping victims were reported to Haiti’s National Police in the first eight months of 2021, compared with a total of 234 for all of 2020. However a New York Times analysis places the actual number of kidnap victims from January to September at 628 people, including 29 foreigners.
Abductions dropped briefly after Moïse’s assassination, but surged again to 73 by August, further rising to 117 in September. Gangs are responsible for most of the nation’s kidnappings and have been accused of abducting schoolchildren, doctors, police officers, busloads of passengers and others.
In recent weeks, people have been taken while attending church and commuting to work. Preachers have been abducted while delivering sermons.
The impoverished population in not impervious either as gangs have kidnapped even poor street vendors who have little to no money. Victims are then forced to sell off assets – items from their homes, such as radios or refrigerators, to pay the ransom.
In one gut wrenching instance, a group of schoolchildren came together to raise the ransom money to pay free a kidnapped classmate.
The most notorious group in the crime wave is The 400 Mawozo gang, the same group which abducted the 17 American missionaries and their families on Oct. 16, credited with approximately 80 percent of the recent sate of kidnappings in Haiti.
400 Mawozo gang is known for its ‘collective kidnappings’ in which they abduct entire cars or buses of people.
The gang’s leader, Wilson Joseph aka Lanmò San Jou – loosely translated ‘Death Without Days’ – has been on the Haitian government’s wanted list for several months.
The Police Nationale d’Haiti publicly announced they were searching for Joseph in December 2020. They claimed he was on the run following the first phase of an operation to dismantle the gang.
The last time Haiti experienced a major surge in kidnappings and gang violence, a rebellion had toppled then-President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 2004, prompting the United Nations to send in a peacekeeping force.
The departure of that force in October 2019 was followed by a resurgence in gang crime, according to human rights activists, who say kidnapping has proven lucrative at a time when Haiti’s economy is teetering.
Half of Port-au-Prince is now believed to be controlled by criminal gangs.
Following the abduction of the missionaries who were traveling along the road from Ganthier to Croix-des-Bouquets when they were seized, groups that follow kidnappings in Haiti believe the missionaries are being held in the town.
Croix-des-Bouquets is known to be under the control of the 400 Mawozo.
In April, the gang was reportedly abducted 10 people including five priests and two nuns in Haiti in April. Two of the hostages were citizens.
The 10 victims were released after three weeks following a ransom demand of a $1 million ransom for those hostages.
Victims on release said they had not been tortured or harmed, but suffered from a lack of food and medications.
It was not clear whether the ransom had been paid, but everyone was eventually freed.
“That was the big sign they can do what they want,” said Timothy Schwartz, an anthropologist and consultant who has lived in the country since the 1990s. “Now they’re taking the next step with the Americans.”
Sister Agnès Bordeau, 80, and Father Michael Briand, 67, both French citizens, were among that group.
‘We found ourselves in the wrong place at the wrong time,’ said Briand, who has lived in Haiti for 36 years.
Fluent in Creole, he believes that the members of the gang had not planned their kidnapping.
At the time, Joseph told Radio Mega that the French nationals are among the most important hostages: ‘If Haiti is like this, it’s because of the French.’
While he has not yet spoken publicly about the abduction of the 17 missionaries, but the question is if his sentiments for the French carries over to America
So far, the anticipated horse trading over ransom has not been reported – It is common in Haiti for kidnappers to wait 24 to 72 hours before issuing ransom demands, which typically start high before being negotiated down.
As the high-level American officials visited Haiti and promising more resources for Haiti’s National Police, including another $15 million to help reduce gang violence, among those who met with Haiti’s police chief was Uzra Zeya, U.S. undersecretary of state for civilian security, democracy and human rights.
‘Dismantling violent gangs is vital to Haitian stability and citizen security,’ she recently tweeted.
Meanwhile, a record-shattering number of Haitian migrants have come to the U.S. in the last month, citing the growing crime as one reason. Haitians are fleeing their homeland as violence continues to spike and the nation faces political uncertainty.
The emigration wave doesn’t appear to be ebbing any time soon, as more people continue to pour into the Colombian town of Necocli, a popular spot for smugglers to shepherd people through the perilous Darien Gap headed for the US border.
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