PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — An Ohio-based church organization says two of 17 abducted members of a missionary group have been freed in Haiti.
Christian Aid Ministries issued a statement Sunday saying the two “are safe, in good spirits and being cared for.”
“While we rejoice at this release, our hearts are with the 15 people who are still being held,” the group said.
Christian Aid Ministries issued a statement saying it could not give the names of those released, why they were freed, or other information.
The missionaries were kidnapped by the 400 Mawozo gang on Oct. 16. There are five children in the group of 16 U.S. citizens and one Canadian, including an 8-month-old. Their Haitian driver also was abducted, according to a local human rights organization.
The leader of 400 Mawozo gang has threatened to kill the hostages unless the gang’s demands are met. Authorities have said the gang was demanding $1 million per person, although it wasn’t immediately clear that included the children in the group.
The spokesman for Haiti’s National Police, Gary Desrosiers, confirmed to The Associated Press that two hostages were released on Sunday.
The FBI, which is helping Haitian authorities recover the captives, declined to comment.
The release comes as Haiti struggles with a spike in gang-related violence and kidnappings, with the U.S. government recently urging U.S. citizens to leave Haiti amid deepening insecurity and a severe lack of fuel blamed on gangs blocking gas distribution terminals. On Friday, Canada announced it was pulling all but essential personnel from its embassy.
The fuel shortage has forced hospitals to turn away patients and paralyzed public transportation, with some schools closing and businesses shortening their work hours.
Haiti also is trying to recover from the July 7 assassination of President Jovenel Moise and a 7.2 magnitude earthquake that struck in mid-August, killing more than 2,200 people and destroying tens of thousands of homes.
Ohio Sen. Rob Portman released a statement on the release of the two hostages, which reads, in part: “Today’s release of two hostages is a step in the right direction, but we must not rest until everyone in custody is released. Unfortunately, kidnapping in Haiti is an all-too common occurrence.”
This is a breaking news story. More information will be added as it becomes available.