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The kidnappers of 16 American missionaries and one Canadian in Haiti demanded one million dollars for the release of each of the hostages, totaling $17 million dollars.
In statements to The Wall Street Journal, Haitian Minister of Justice Liszt Quitel explained that the FBI and the Haitian Police are in contact with the gang, known as the 400 Mawozo, which kidnapped the missionaries last Saturday in the outskirts of Port-au-Prince.
Quitel said that negotiations for the release of the hostages may take weeks.
“We are trying to achieve his release without paying a ransom — said the minister. This is the first course of action. Let’s be honest: when we give them that money, that money will be used to (buy) more weapons and ammunition.”
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Quitel added that the country’s authorities are looking for an outcome similar to the kidnapping in April of a group of Catholic priests and nuns by the same gang.
The five priests, two nuns and three of their relatives were released at the end of that same month, after the payment of a ransom for only two of the hostage priests, said the head of the Justice Ministry.
Quitel told the newspaper that the missionaries are being held in a house just outside Croix-des-Bouquets, an area on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince controlled by 400 Mawazo and close to the place where they were kidnapped by armed men at noon on Saturday.
The missionaries were kidnapped while traveling by bus after visiting an orphanage. Among the hostages are five children, including an 8-month-old baby, and 12 adults from the missionary organization Christian Aid Ministries, based in the Midwestern U.S. state of Ohio.
Quitel added that the FBI, which has sent agents on the ground, and Haitian police negotiators are advising the religious group on how to proceed.
Despite being in Haiti, the FBI is not leading these negotiations with the abductors and has not been in direct contact with them.
Still, “the kidnappers have been warned about what the consequences of harming the hostages may be,” Quitel said.