The U.S. government announced on Monday that they will be charging seven leaders of Haitian gangs for the armed kidnapping of multiple U.S. citizens who were working as missionaries in the country, with a hefty reward for the capture of each leader.

The seven leaders, who represent five different Haitian gangs, will be charged for their reported involvement in the armed kidnapping of 16 American missionaries and one Canadian in October 2021 while they were visiting an orphanage close to Port-au-Prince, according to Al Jazeera.

Three Haitian nationals were given indictments for “conspiracy to commit hostage taking,” where the kidnapped group was held captive by the gangs for 61 days before they escaped. As a way of encouraging the local gangs and citizens of Haiti to give up the leaders, a bounty of $1 million each will be given for the capture of three of the gang leaders, a DOJ press release stated.

“When a U.S. citizen is kidnapped abroad, the Justice Department will bring to bear the full reach of our law enforcement authorities to ensure their safe return home and to hold accountable those responsible,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said.

“As these charges demonstrate, we are committed to working alongside our interagency and international partners to disrupt these kidnapping-for-ransom schemes that endanger the lives of American citizens and that fuel the violent gangs harming the Haitian people.”

In addition to these three Haitian gang leaders, four other gang leaders were also charged for separate kidnappings of American citizens. The FBI is reportedly using all their current resources to capture these men as well and bring them to justice.

“When crimes against U.S. Citizens occur in Haiti and throughout this region, we will not relent. The FBI’s full investigative capability will be brought to bear to identify those responsible,” Special Agent Robert DeWitt said.

Haiti has experienced increased violence since the assassination of President Jovenel Moise in 2021, with gangs and armed groups taking control of important infrastructure in the country, including blockading a key petrol terminal in the capital until very recently. The United States have pledged to take measures to help with the violence and insecurity currently taking the country today.

“We stand with the people of Haiti, whose country has been ravaged by violent gangs impacting every facet of society,” U.S. Attorney Matthew Graves said. “We are committed to using all tools available to prosecute these gangs in order to disrupt their unlawful activities in Haiti and bring justice for our victims.”

Haiti Kidnapping Case Rep. Pic
This is a representational image. Rick Shaw/Unsplash.

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