At least 17 American missionaries are reportedly being held hostage in Haiti. The Associated Press says a notorious gang is believed to be behind the kidnappings of a group of mostly Americans on Saturday.

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The missionaries were reportedly abducted after visiting an orphanage north of Port-au-Prince. Five children were believed to be among those kidnapped, including a 2-year-old.

The Ohio-based organization, Christian Aid Ministries released a statement on Sunday.


“Join us in praying for those who are being held hostage, the kidnappers and the families, friends and churches of those affected. As an organization, we commit this situation to God and trust him to see us through.”

An investigation is ongoing, according to a source in Haiti’s security forces, they attributed the kidnapping to the 400 Mawozo gang. Notoriously a local Haitian gang known for brazen kidnappings and killings.

The gang, whose name roughly translates to 400 “inexperienced men,” controls the Croix-des-Bouquets area that includes Ganthier, where they carry out kidnappings, carjackings and extort business owners.

At least 328 kidnappings were reported to Haiti’s National Police in the first eight months of 2021, compared with a total of 234 for all of 2020, according to a report issued last month by the United Nations Integrated Office in Haiti known as BINUH.

Haiti is struggling to control a spike in gang-related kidnappings, after President Jovenel Moïse was fatally shot at his private residence on July 7. Haiti then suffered a 7.2-magnitude earthquake that killed more than 2,200 people in August.

Haitian Foreign Minister Claude Joseph urged the UNSC earlier this month to bolster the UN mission’s mandate in order to help ensure security and protection for civilians, according to a UN news release.

The U.S. State Department says they are aware of the reports. Canadian officials are also working with local authorities to return the hostages.