Who is Haiti gang blamed for kidnapping missionaires? What to know about 400 Mawozo

Five children including a two-year-old believed to be among those adbucted

Haitians demonstrate in Port-au-Prince, demanding human rights amid an upsurge in kidnappings perpetrated by gangs. AFP
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A notorious Haitian gang known for brazen kidnappings and killings has been accused by police of abducting 17 missionaries.

Five children – including one aged two – were believed to be among those kidnapped in the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince.

The 400 Mawozo gang is being blamed by Haitian authorities for the kidnapping in Ganthier, east of the city.

The missionaries were on their way home on Saturday from building an orphanage, a message from Ohio-based Christian Aid Ministries sent to various religious missions said.

A security guard told Associated Press the kidnapped missionaries had visited the site before they were abducted.

'400 inexperienced men'

A group of between 15 and 17 people, including children, were being held by the 400 Mawozo. AFP

The violent gang, which operates in and around Port-au-Prince, controls the Croix-des-Bouquets area that includes Ganthier, where they carry out kidnappings and carjackings and extort business owners, authorities say.

The gang's name translates roughly from Creole as “400 inexperienced men”. It was held responsible for kidnapping five priests and two nuns this year in Haiti.

Haitian police last year distributed a wanted poster for the gang’s alleged leader, Wilson Joseph, on charges including murder, attempted murder, kidnapping, car theft and the hijacking of lorries carrying goods.

Mr Joseph goes by the nickname Lanmo Sanjou, which means “death doesn’t know which day it is coming”.

After the gang opened fire on a small bus carrying several passengers, killing an infant, he blamed the driver for refusing to stop.

Haiti is once again struggling with a surge in gang-related kidnappings that had diminished in recent months, after President Jovenel Moise was fatally shot at his private residence on July 7 and a 7.2-magnitude earthquake killed more than 2,200 people in August.

Updated: October 19, 2021, 5:59 AM