The leader of the Haitian gang "400 mawozo" which kidnapped 17 North American citizens on Saturday, east of the capital Port-au-Prince, threatened to execute the hostages, in a video shot Wednesday and shared Thursday on the social networks.
"If I do not get what I need, I will kill these Americans", threatens Wilson Joseph in Creole, appearing in costume and surrounded by many armed men, all gathered in front of the coffins where the corpses of five members of the army lie. his gang who he said were killed by the police.
On Saturday, a group of missionaries and members of their families, 16 American citizens and one Canadian national, were abducted after visiting an orphanage located in the heart of the area under the control of this armed gang.
Twelve adults and five child hostages
Christian Aid Ministries, to which the abducted missionaries belong, said the group consisted of 12 adults, ranging in age from 18 to 48, and five children, aged 8 months, 3, 6, 13 and 15 years old.
The kidnappers demand a ransom of $ 17 million for their release, security sources have confirmed to AFP who requested anonymity.
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Haiti is classified as a country in the red zone by the United States which advises its nationals not to go there, in particular because of the numerous kidnappings of which "the victims regularly include American citizens".
Since December 2020, Wilson Joseph has been the subject of a search notice from the Haitian police for "assassination, attempted murder, kidnapping, vehicle theft and hijacking of merchandise trucks".
The rise of gangs
In this context of growing gang influence, Prime Minister Ariel Henry decided Thursday to replace Léon Charles, the director general of the Haitian national police (PNH), a source close to the Prime Minister told AFP, information that the PNH has not yet officially confirmed.
Long confined to poor districts of the capital, the armed gangs have, in recent months, extended their control, in particular blocking access to oil terminals.
On Thursday, groups of motorcycle taxi drivers stepped up barricades across Port-au-Prince to protest the fuel shortage, caused by gangs and forcing them to stock up on the black market.
"I now buy gasoline between 1000 and 1500 gourdes (10 to 15 US dollars, Editor's note) per gallon" instead of the legal price of 201 gourdes, testified by getting angry a motorcycle taxi driver, who did not wanted to disclose his identity.
At the beginning of September, the armed bands hijacked more than a dozen tankers at the exit of the only terminal still partially accessible, among the three in the country.
Faced with the risk of seeing their employees sequestered and losing more than 15,000 euros in merchandise by truck, petroleum product distributors have almost suspended their activities.