The leader of the Haitian gang that kidnapped 16 American missionaries has threatened to kill the hostages if his ransom demands, $1 million per hostage, are not paid.
“I prefer that thunder burns me, if I don’t get what I need. You see those Americans, I will prefer to kill them and I will unload a big weapon to each of their heads,” the leader of the gang known as 400 Mawozo, Wilson Joseph, said in the video, according to The New York Times. “I mean what I said, that’s it.”
The Times said that their sourcing for Joseph’s remarks included two people who were present when the threat was made and recorded on video. A total of 17 people were kidnapped, including one Canadian.
The Wall Street Journal reported:
The missionaries were abducted last Saturday in an eastern suburb of the capital when armed members of the gang forcibly stopped a minibus carrying the men, women and children. The group, which includes an 8-month-old baby, was returning from a visit to a nearby orphanage.
A reporter asked Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre during Thursday’s White House press briefing about the situation, specifically about how seriously the Biden administration was taking the situation and what it was doing to respond to it.
Jean-Pierre responded first by highlighting a statement from Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who said this week:
First, with regard to the specific incident that you referred to, the kidnapping of missionaries, including 16 Americans, we have in the administration been relentlessly focused on this, including sending a team to Haiti from the State Department; working very closely with the FBI, which is the lead in these kinds of matters; in constant communication with the Haitian National Police, the church that the missionaries belong to, as well as to the Haitian Government. And we will do everything that we can to help resolve the situation.
Jean-Pierre also highlighted a purported statement from Haiti’s security:
We have been working closely with the Haitian National Police to try to build their capacity, as well as help put in place programs that can effectively deal with the gangs. But it’s a very challenging and long-term process. We’re focused on it, but is it absolutely essential that this security dynamic change if Haiti is going to make real progress.
Jean-Pierre said that for privacy and security reasons, she could not disclose more at this time.
This article has been expanded after publication to include additional information.
Author: Ryan Saavedra