HomeNewsHaiti Kidnappings Target Foreigners in Evolution of Security Crisis
NEWS

Haiti Kidnappings Target Foreigners in Evolution of Security Crisis

HAITI / 18 OCT 2021 BY CHRIS DALBY EN

The abduction of 17 American and Canadian citizens in Haiti will bring a new level of attention to the country’s out-of-control kidnapping crisis but is unlikely to lead to new solutions.

On October 16, a bus carrying the missionaries from Christian Aid Ministries and their families, including five children, was stopped by a gang as they left an orphanage in the town of Ganthier, just northeast of the capital, Port-au-Prince. FBI agents soon arrived in Haiti to help lead the search and rescue operation.

Haiti police inspector Frantz Champagne blamed the kidnappings on 400 Mawozo, a gang based in Ganthier notorious for its kidnapping tactics. Speaking to the Associated Press, Champagne stated 400 Mawozo was also responsible for an April kidnapping of seven clergy members, including two French citizens. The gang asked for a $1 million ransom for their liberation. They were all released a week later, but it is unknown whether the ransom demand was met.

SEE ALSO: Haiti’s Neighbors Grow Concerned at Spread of Gang Governance

Last December, the Haitian National Police issued an arrest warrant for the leader of 400 Mawozo, William Joseph, alias “Lanmò San Jou.” In a subsequent raid, police arrested several suspected gang members.

InSight Crime Analysis

The abduction of American and Canadian citizens reveals an escalation of the Haiti kidnapping crisis, with foreign citizens increasingly becoming targets. From January to August 2021, Haiti’s national police registered at least 328 kidnappings, up from 234 for all of 2020. The actual number is likely to be far higher. 

While numerous gangs in Haiti participate in kidnappings, including the feared G9 alliance, 400 Mawozo appear to be the most dangerous. According to Eric Calpas, a gang researcher on the island who worked with InSight Crime, the gang could have as many as 1,000 members, making it, by far, the country's largest.

The group's modus operandi to kidnap is simple but effective. Calpas says it stations several lookouts and operatives along key roads, where it can surprise and corral victims' vehicles along the barren roads or snarled city traffic. From there, they usher the victims in groups ranging from four to twenty to waiting vehicles that take them to safe houses where ransom negotiations ensue.

SEE ALSO: Truce or No Truce: Gangs in Haiti Control Aid Movement

Calpas and several other security experts said the gang was responsible for most of the kidnappings in the country between June and September 2021, a period in which kidnappings soared in Haiti, although on some occasions, the gang will sell its victims to other gangs.

While kidnapping appears to be 400 Mawozo's primary means of income, the gang's control of the road on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince, such as the one going to Ganthier, a town on a main road to the Dominican Republic, allows it to hijack trucks, extort drivers and profit from smuggling operations as well.

Whereas kidnapping victims remain primarily from the middle-class, such as teachers and business owners who could pay some sort of ransom, the range of targets has expanded. Poor street vendors with little to no cash have been kidnapped, with gangs demanding they sell off personal items, such as refrigerators, to pay for their freedom, according to the New York Times.

Religious groups have also become regular victims of violence. Besides the seven priests and nuns kidnapped by 400 Mawozo in April, a Haitian priest was shot dead in September. Whether the missionaries are rescued due to paying a ransom or through a security operation, there is no sign the situation will improve any time soon. And foreigners will continue to be targeted.

The kidnappings come after the July assassination of President Jovenel Moïse followed by an earthquake the next month. The turmoil has caused Haiti's security to spiral further out of control and emboldened already powerful gangs.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

CARIBBEAN / 9 JUL 2021

Two days on from the nighttime assassination of Haiti President Jovenel Moïse in Port-au-Prince, competing theories have failed to provide…

ARGENTINA / 11 MAR 2015

Authorities in Argentina recently dismantled a criminal group dedicated to fake kidnappings, a trend seen in other parts of Latin…

KIDNAPPING / 19 JUL 2012

A hotel security video caught Jalisco police officers assisting in a kidnapping, highlighting the depth of corruption in Mexico’s security…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela's Cocaine Revolution Met With Uproar

6 MAY 2022

On May 4, InSight Crime launched its latest investigation, Venezuela’s Cocaine Revolution¸ accompanied by a virtual panel on its findings. The takeaways from this three-year effort, including the fact that Venezuela…

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela Drug Trafficking Investigation and InDepth Gender Coverage

29 APR 2022

On May 4, InSight Crime will be publishing The Cocaine Revolution in Venezuela, a groundbreaking investigation into how the Venezuelan government regulates the cocaine trade in the country. An accompanying event,…

THE ORGANIZATION

InDepth Coverage of Juan Orlando Hernández

22 APR 2022

Ever since Juan Orlando Hernández was elected president of Honduras in 2014, InSight Crime has provided coverage of every twist and turn during his rollercoaster time in office, amid growing…

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela's Cocaine Revolution

15 APR 2022

On May 4th, InSight Crime will publish a groundbreaking investigation on drug trafficking in Venezuela. A product of three years of field research across the country, the study uncovers cocaine production in…

LA ORGANIZACIÓN

Widespread Coverage of InSight Crime MS13 Investigation

8 APR 2022

In a joint investigation with La Prensa Gráfica, InSight Crime recently revealed that four of the MS13’s foremost leaders had been quietly released from…