All of the American missionary group released in Haiti, according to police
Haitian National Police spokesman Gary Desrosiers confirmed to The Associated Press that the hostages had been released, but did not immediately provide additional details.
“Praise God for the prayer answered: the remaining 12 hostages are FREE!” Christian Aid Ministries said in a statement. “All 17 of our loved ones are safe now.”
The Ohio-based group said it hopes to provide more information later.
In the late afternoon of Thursday, a convoy of at least a dozen vehicles, including SUVs from the U.S. Embassy and the Haitian National Police, drove the missionaries to Port-au-Prince Airport. from the missionary group’s offices in Titanyen, north of the capital.
Before, people on the Christian Aid Ministries campus could be seen hugging and smiling.
In Washington, White House Assistant Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre praised the work of law enforcement and Haitian officials who helped free the hostages. “We welcome reports that they are free and receive the care they need after their ordeal,” he said.
The missionaries were abducted by the 400 Mawozo gang on October 16. There were five children in the group of 16 US citizens and one Canadian, including an 8-month-old child. His Haitian driver was also abducted, according to a local human rights organization.
The gang leader had threatened to kill the hostages if their demands were not met. Authorities said 400 Mawozo were asking for $ 1 million per person, although it was unclear whether this included children.
It was unclear whether any ransom was paid or what efforts led to the release of the hostages.
Carleton Horst, a member of the Hart Dunkard Brothers’ Church in Hart, Michigan, whose members were among the hostages, said church members received a text message Thursday morning from “someone connected with the situation “which says that all the hostages had been released.
Among the hostages were a mother and her five children, two of them adults, who belong to the church. Horst, who is a friend of the family, said the church is happy and that “he is glad that this part of things is finally over, just praise the Lord for it.”
“We feel great,” said Rev. Ron Marks, a church minister.
“From what I picked up, they were treated relatively well,” Marks later told a news conference at Zoom.
Two of the hostages were released in November and three more earlier this month. They were not identified, but members of the Hart congregation told Michigan local media that two were from Hart.
In addition to Michigan, the hostages are from Wisconsin, Ohio, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Oregon and Ontario, Canada, according to the mission group.
“Today is the day we’ve been waiting for, praying and working so hard to get it done,” said Congressman Bill Huizenga, the Western Michigan congressional district includes Hart.
“I want to thank the members of the hostage negotiation team for their diligence in securing the safe release of all hostages. This is a great day for families in Michigan and across the country who have been concerned about the security of their loved ones, “Huizenga said.
Smith reported from Pittsburgh. AP writer Anna Nichols in Lansing, Michigan and Colleen Long in Washington contributed to this report.
This story has been corrected to reflect that one woman and five children belonging to the church were held hostage, not four children.