Haiti to open kidnapping investigation, sources say

GENEVA — Authorities in Haiti confirmed Tuesday that a gang has been behind a kidnapping of 17 Western missionaries and said they are hunting for suspects, a government official said. Prosecutors in Haiti have…

Haiti to open kidnapping investigation, sources say

GENEVA — Authorities in Haiti confirmed Tuesday that a gang has been behind a kidnapping of 17 Western missionaries and said they are hunting for suspects, a government official said.

Prosecutors in Haiti have opened a criminal investigation into the Jan. 26 kidnapping from a private hotel, said Dérangène Pierre-Louis, spokeswoman for Haiti’s attorney general’s office. She said the group was traveling from the town of Les Cayes to Jacmel when the attack occurred.

Survivors and families of the hostages — who had traveled to Haiti on religious missions — have protested for the last five months outside the Chilean Embassy in Port-au-Prince to demand the release of their loved ones. A spokesman for the attorney general’s office said 18 survivors are in the United States awaiting a reunion with their families.

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children said in October that the women and girls were abducted from the Hilton Hotel in Les Cayes after they took shelter there during a gang extortion attempt. At least seven of the hostages were held for more than a week before they were released, the center said.

On Monday, Minister of Justice Hank Alphonse Matheson said in a statement that the government has established the identity of at least one of the kidnappers, who was killed during the incident.

After the kidnapping, U.S. authorities and the International Red Cross said they were closely monitoring the situation and trying to help the hostages. Officials in Haiti have said the group was warned and authorized to leave the country before it was kidnapped.

Relatives of the victims held a news conference Tuesday in Washington to express frustration over the government’s inaction. Some protesters urged Pope Francis to intervene.

“We are not coming back until our daughters are released,” said Claudine Michelet, the mother of a survivor.

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