A Haitian gang is demanding $17 million in exchange for the release of a group of kidnapped Christian missionaries, a top official said

Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
Armed police ride through the streets of Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Richard Pierrin/AFP via Getty Images
  • A group of mostly-American Christian missionaries was kidnapped Saturday in Haiti.
  • The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday that the missionaries are being ransomed for $US1 ($AU1) million each.
  • The White House said Monday that the FBI was working to help secure the group’s release.

A group of 17 Christian missionaries who were kidnapped in Haiti last weekend are being ransomed for a total of $US17 ($AU23) million, a top Haitian official told The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday.

The Ohio-based Christian Aid Ministries told Reuters that a group of their missionaries was visiting an orphanage on Saturday when their bus was hijacked outside the capital of Port-au-Prince.

The group includes 16 Americans and one Canadian, according to Reuters. There are five children among them, the Associated Press reported.

Haiti’s justice minister, Liszt Quitel, told The Journal that the missionaries were kidnapped by the 400 Mawozo gang, which is now demanding a ransom of $US1 ($AU1) million for each of the 17 hostages.

Quitel said negotiations to secure the group’s release could take weeks, and that negotiators are trying to get the missionaries released without paying a ransom.

“This is the first course of action,” Quitel told The Journal. “Let’s be honest: When we give them that money, that money is going to be used for more guns and more munitions.”

President Joe Biden has been briefed on the situation, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Monday, adding that the FBI is “part of a coordinated US government effort to get the US citizens involved to safety.”

Kidnappings have become commonplace in Haiti, a country that was further destabilized by the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse in July.

Kinsley Jean, a Haitian university student and activist, told Insider on Tuesday that the kidnapping of the missionaries was somewhat surprising since gang members have mostly focused on ransoming locals.

He said he believes this particular kidnapping shows that the gangs are becoming “more and more powerful” and brazen in their actions.

Jean also said a $US1 ($AU1) million ransom is rare, and something that has only been demanded of high-profile Haitians.