All from U.S. missionary group freed in Haiti, police say

All from U.S. missionary group freed in Haiti, police say

All of the remaining hostages from a group of 17 U.S.-based missionaries kidnapped in Haiti two months ago have been freed, the Ohio-based group said Thursday morning.

Christian Aid Ministries offered few details on how the hostages were set free, saying more information would be forthcoming soon.

Haitian National Police spokesman Gary Desrosiers confirmed the news, telling The Associated Press that the remaining hostages had been released. He also did not provide details on how the captives were freed.

“We glorify God for answered prayer — the remaining twelve hostages are FREE!” the Ohio group said in a statement. “Join us in praising God that all seventeen of our loved ones are now safe.”

The Biden administration has been engaged in an intense, behind-the-scenes effort to secure the release of the hostages, held since Oct. 16 as Haiti faces political upheavals, natural disasters and a breakdown of order in its major cities.

At one point, a leader of the street gang 400 Mawozo demanded a ransom of $1 million per hostage and threatened to kill the captives if the gang’s demands were not met.

The missionaries, who come from Amish, Mennonite and other conservative Anabaptist communities across the Midwest and Ontario, were taken while traveling by car northeast of the capital city of Port-au-Prince when their vehicle was commandeered.

Five of the hostages, which included several children and a 1-year-old infant, were previously released.

The group consisted of 16 Americans and one Canadian.

President Biden was briefed on the kidnapping shortly after it occurred, and an FBI team was dispatched to Haiti to work with local authorities trying to free the captives.

As in many such cases, the U.S. government is deeply reluctant to pay ransom for the release of hostages, fearing it will only encourage more such actions by the increasingly powerful Haitian gangs.

The AP account quoted Carleton Horst, a member of Hart Dunkard Brethren Church in Hart, Michigan, where five of the hostages are members, who said church members received a text message Thursday morning with the welcome news.

A mother and four of her children who belong to the congregation were among the hostages. Mr. Horst, who is friends with the family, told the wire service that the church is rejoicing and he’s “elated that that portion of things is finally over, just praise the Lord for that.”

Sen. Rob Portman, an Ohio Republican who sponsored recent legislation calling for an assessment of U.S. efforts to fight gang influence and kidnapping in Haiti, hailed the “welcome” news and praised the work of U.S. law enforcement agencies.

“I commend the FBI, State Department and other federal partners for their efforts to help secure their release,” Mr. Portman said in a statement. “As I’ve highlighted in the past, kidnapping in Haiti is all too common. I will continue to press the administration to develop a whole-of-government approach to address this problem.”

• This article was based in part on wire service reports.