Two of the 17 members of a missionary group kidnapped more than a month ago have been released in Haiti and are safe and “in excellent spirits,” according to their U.S.-based religious organization.
Christian Aid Ministries said in a statement released Sunday that it couldn’t reveal the identities of individuals liberated, why they were freed, or any other details.
“While we celebrate this release, our hearts go out to the 15 folks who remain detained,” the Ohio-based organization said.
On Oct. 16, the missionaries were kidnapped by the 400 Mawozo gang. In the group of 16 Americans and one Canadian, there are five children, including an 8-month-old. According to a local human rights organization, their Haitian driver was also kidnapped.
The 400 Mawozo gang’s commander has threatened to kill the captives if his demands are not satisfied. Authorities say the gang is seeking $1 million per member, but it’s unclear whether it includes the youngsters in the group.
Gary Desrosiers, a spokesperson for Haiti’s National Police, told The Associated Press that two hostages were freed on Sunday.
The FBI, which is assisting Haitian authorities in their efforts to reclaim the hostages, declined to comment.
The news comes as Haiti faces an uptick in gang-related violence and kidnappings, with the US government recently advising US residents to flee the country due to rising insecurity and a chronic scarcity of gasoline blamed on gangs blocking gas delivery facilities. On Friday, Canada declared that all but essential employees will be removed from its embassy.
The gasoline crisis has led hospitals to turn away patients and halted public transit, resulting in the closure of several schools and the reduction of business hours.
Haiti is also striving to recover from President Jovenel Moise’s assassination on July 7 and a 7.2 magnitude earthquake in mid-August that killed over 2,200 people and destroyed tens of thousands of homes.