The release of twelve North American hostages held hostage in Haiti was greeted, Thursday, December 16, by the deputy spokesperson of the White House, Karine Jean-Pierre, herself of Haitian origin. But the circumstances of this return to freedom were still unknown.
The religious organization Christian Aid Ministries, to which these missionaries belong, explained, Monday, December 20, that they had organized their own escape after two months at the hands of a gang.
On October 16, the group of seventeen people, including five minors, was kidnapped after visiting an orphanage, west of the capital Port-au-Prince, in the heart of an area under the influence one of Haiti’s main gangs. Five members of the group had previously been released separately in November and December.
On December 15, after several attempts, the group of twelve remaining hostages, including a 10-month-old baby and a three-year-old child, managed to break down the door behind which they were being held captive, and to deflect the attention of the guards, Christian Aid Ministries spokesperson Weston Showalter explained at an online press conference.
Two hours of walking among the brambles
The adults hid water in their clothes, protected the baby in blankets and carried the other young children to escape and walk through the forest, he said. Helped by the night, they “Walked for probably nearly 10 miles [16 km] and crossed a thick forest, navigating between the brambles » to escape. “We walked through the brambles for two hours, we were in gang land,” described one of those who escaped, quoted by the spokesperson.
According to the latter, the hostages were not victims of violence during their confinement, and were fed, even though they suffered from contaminated water, hunger and lack of sleep.
Members of the “400 Mawozo” gang, behind the kidnapping, had demanded one million dollars per person held captive, according to information gathered by Agence France-Presse (AFP). Religious organization Christian Aid Ministries said it had raised money intended for ransom in order to continue negotiations, but declined to give further details, and the payment of any ransoms remains unknown. In a video posted at the end of October on social networks, the leader of the armed gang threatened to execute the hostages.
Long confined to the poorest districts of the capital of this country mired in a deep political crisis and a spiral of violence, the gangs carry out their criminal activities with complete impunity. The Center for Human Rights Analysis and Research, an organization based in Port-au-Prince, has recorded at least 949 kidnappings since the start of the year.