The remaining 12 of the original 17 North Americans kidnapped in Haiti in October have been freed, Haitian police said on Thursday, after weeks of negotiations with the criminal gang 400 Mawozo.
“We confirm the release of the 12 people who remained” hostages, police spokesman Gary Desrosiers told AFP by telephone. “We cannot give more details at the moment.”
The missionaries and their family members — a group consisting of 16 Americans and one Canadian — were abducted on October 16 while returning from an orphanage in an area east of the capital Port-au-Prince that is controlled by 400 Mawozo, one of Haiti's most powerful gangs.
Two of them were released in November and another three were freed this month.
Christian Aid Ministries, which is based in the US state of Ohio, has said the hostages included 12 adults aged 18 to 48, and five children ranging in age from eight months to 15 years.
“We glorify God for answered prayer — the remaining 12 hostages are free,” the group said on its website.
“Join us in praising God that all 17 of our loved ones are now safe.”
The group's Haitian driver also was abducted, a local human rights organisation said.
The leader of 400 Mawozo had threatened to kill the hostages unless his demands were met. Authorities had said the gang was demanding $1 million per person, although it was not immediately clear if that included the children in the group.
FBI agents, Haitian authorities and the anti-kidnapping unit of the national police had been negotiating with the gang.
Agencies contributed reporting