PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti – The leader of the 400 Mawozo gang who police say detains 17 members of a kidnapped missionary group is seen in a video released Thursday saying he will kill them if he doesn’t get not what he asks.
The video posted on social media shows Wilson Joseph in a blue suit, wearing a blue hat and carrying a large cross around his neck.
“I swear by thunder that if I don’t get what I ask for, I will put a bullet in the head of these Americans,” he said in the video.
He also threatened Prime Minister Ariel Henry and Haiti’s national police chief as he spoke in front of the open coffins which apparently contained several recently killed members of his gang.
“You make me cry. I cry water. But I will make you cry blood,” he said.
On Thursday afternoon, Henry’s office announced that Leon Charles had resigned as head of the National Police and had been replaced by Frantz Elbé. The newspaper Le Nouvelliste indicated that Elbé was director of the South-East and Nippes police services and that he previously held the post of general coordinator of the security of the National Palace when Jocelerme Privert was provisional president.
“We want public peace to be restored, to return to normal life and to find the path to democracy,” said Henry.
There was no immediate comment from Charles or Elbé.
Earlier this week, authorities said the gang was demanding $ 1 million per person, although it was not immediately clear that these were the five children in the group, including an 8-month-old. Sixteen Americans and one Canadian were kidnapped, along with their Haitian driver.
The missionaries are with Ohio-based Christian Aid Ministries who held a press conference before anyone posted the video of the gang leader.
Weston Showalter, spokesperson for the church group, said the families of those kidnapped were from Amish, Mennonite and other conservative Anabaptist communities in Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Tennessee, from Pennsylvania, Oregon and Ontario, Canada. He read a letter from families, who were not identified by name, in which they said, “God has given our loved ones the unique opportunity to live out our Lord’s command to love your enemies.
The group invited people to join them in prayer for the kidnappers as well as those who have been kidnapped and expressed gratitude for the help of “people knowledgeable and experienced in handling” such situations.
“Pray for these families,” Showalter said. “They are in a difficult situation.”
The organization then released a statement saying it would not comment on the video “until those directly involved in securing the release of the hostages have determined that the comments will not jeopardize safety and security. well-being of our staff and members of our family “.
The gang leader’s death threat has added to already intense concern in and around Holmes County, Ohio, where Christian Aid Ministries is based and has one of the largest concentrations of Amish, conservative Mennonites and related groups. Many members of these groups have supported the organization through donations or volunteering in its warehouse.
“This stuff blurs some of the boundaries that exist within our circles,” added Marcus Yoder, executive director of the Amish & Mennonite Heritage Center in Millersburg.
“Many people in the community feel helpless, but they also realize the power of prayer and the power of our historical theology,” he said, including the Anabaptist belief in non-resistance to violence.
GET THE FOX NEWS APP
The same day the missionaries were kidnapped, a gang also kidnapped a Haitian university professor, according to a statement released Tuesday by the Office of Citizen Protection, similar to Haiti’s ombudsman. He also noted that a Haitian pastor kidnapped earlier this month has not been released despite the payment of a ransom.
“Criminals (…) operate with impunity, attacking all members of society,” the organization said.
UNICEF said Thursday that the number of women and children abducted in the first eight months of this year has exceeded last year’s total.
“No place is safer for children in Haiti,” Jean Gough, UNICEF regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean, said in a statement. “Whether it’s on their way to school, at home or even at church, girls and boys are at risk of being kidnapped anywhere, at any time of the day or night.
UNICEF said 71 women and 30 children were abducted this year, up from 59 women and 37 children last year.
“They represent a third of the 455 kidnappings reported this year,” the agency said.
Meanwhile, hundreds of protesters blocked roads and burned tires in the Haitian capital to denounce a severe fuel shortage and rising insecurity and to demand the resignation of the prime minister.
The dispersed demonstration took place in the Delmas district of Port-au-Prince.
In addition to the kidnappings, the gangs are also accused of blocking gas distribution terminals and hijacking supply trucks, which officials say has resulted in a fuel shortage. Many gas stations now remain closed for days in a row, and the fuel shortage is so severe that the CEO of Digicel Haiti announced on Tuesday that 150 of its 1,500 branches across the country were out of diesel.
“Nothing works!” complained Davidson Meiuce, who joined Thursday’s protest. “We are in great pain.”
Some demonstrators held up placards, including one that read “Down with the cost of living”.
Protesters clashed with police in some areas, with officers firing tear gas that mixed with thick black smoke rising from burning tires that served as barricades.
Alexandre Simon, a 34-year-old English and French teacher, said he and others were protesting because Haitians are facing such dire situations.
“There are a lot of people who cannot eat,” he said. “There is no job … There are a lot of things that we don’t have.”
You Can Read Also