Haiti Gangs: Three Churchgoers Kidnapped After Mass

Image source, Reuters Police are often outnumbered and outgunned by local gangs
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Gang members in Haiti have kidnapped three worshippers as they left a church in the capital, Port-au-Prince, after attending Sunday Mass.

Local media say the kidnappers are demanding high sums of money as ransom.

Kidnappings for ransom have skyrocketed in Haiti in recent years and clergy and places of worship are increasingly being targeted.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has described the situation as “a living nightmare”.

Witnesses said a couple and one other person who regularly attends services at the First Baptist Church in the centre of Port-au-Prince were snatched by gang members on Sunday morning local time.

Their kidnapping came just five days after a priest was seized on his way to his missionary community, located 27km (17 miles) north of the capital.

Father Antoine Macaire Christian Noah, who is from Cameroon, had been working as a parish priest in the mountainous village of Casale, north of the capital, for a year before he was snatched.

The Claretian Missionaries, the religious congregation he belongs to, said it had been contacted by the gang with a ransom demand.

There were more than 1,200 reported kidnappings in Haiti in 2022, double that of those reported the previous year.

But kidnapping is not the only crime that has been on the rise in Haiti.

A new UN report released last week highlights how gang violence has sharply increased in Brooklyn, a neighbourhood on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince.

It describes how one gang uses snipers to kill anyone entering its territory and how women are gang raped in front of their families to spread terror in gang-controlled areas.

UN High Commissioners for Human Rights Volker Türk described the findings as “horrifying”.

“It paints a picture of how people are being harassed and terrorised by criminal gangs for months without the state being able to stop it,” Mr Türk said.

Haiti was plunged into lawlessness following the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse in July 2021.

The country has been led by Prime Minister Ariel Henry since then, but he has failed to rein in the gangs which now control an estimated 60% of the capital.

Mr Henry has repeatedly called for the deployment of an international force to help police in their fight against the criminal gangs.

So far no country has offered to lead such a force but Mr Henry says it is key to providing security so that long-postponed elections can be held.

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