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A gang in Haiti has kidnapped 17 American Christian missionaries, including family members, the Associated Press reported Sunday.

The agency quoted an audio message from the Ohio-based Christian aid group that the missionaries were kidnapped, Saturday, after they left an orphanage.

The letter stated that the field director of the missionary works with the American embassy, ​​and his family and another unidentified person were kidnapped, while no further details were immediately available.

The kidnapping of the missionaries comes just days after high-ranking US officials visited Haiti, where they promised more resources for the national police, including $15 million to help curb gang violence.

In turn, a US government spokesman said they are aware of the kidnapping reports.

The spokesman stressed that “the well-being and safety of American citizens abroad is one of the highest priorities of the State Department,” without elaborating.

Haiti is suffering from an escalation of kidnappings by gangs, which waned after the assassination of President Jovenel Moise at his home on July 7.

Gangs are demanding ransoms ranging from a few hundred dollars to more than a million dollars, according to local authorities.

During the first eight months of 2021, at least 328 people were reported kidnapped, compared to a total of 234 kidnappings in the whole of 2020, according to a report released last month by the United Nations Integrated Office in Haiti.

On Friday, the UN Security Council voted unanimously to extend the mandate of the United Nations Mission in Haiti for 9 months.

© The Eastern Herald