US religious group says 17 missionaries kidnapped in Haiti

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A Haitian national flag flies at half-mast on the front lawn of the former National Palace, marking the 3rd anniversary of the devastating 7.0 magnitude earthquake, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Saturday, Jan. 12, 2013. Clad in black, several dozen senior government officials gathered where the elegant white palace had stood before it collapsed in the temblor and was later demolished. Most of the rubble created by the quake has since been carted away but more than 350,000 people still live in grim displacement camps. (AP Photo/Dieu Nalio Chery)

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — A group of 17 U.S. missionaries including children were kidnapped in Haiti on Saturday, according to a voice message sent to various religious missions by an organization with direct knowledge of the incident.

The missionaries were on their way home from building an orphanage, according to a message from Ohio-based Christian Aid Ministries.

“This is a special prayer alert,” the one-minute message said. “Pray that the gang members would come to repentance.”

The message states that the mission’s field director is working with the U.S. Embassy, and that the field director’s family and one other unidentified man stayed at the ministry’s base while everyone else visiting the orphanage was abducted.

No other details were immediately available.

A U.S. government spokesperson said they were aware of the reports on the kidnapping.

“The welfare and safety of U.S. citizens abroad is one of the highest priorities of the Department of State,” the spokesperson said, declining further comment.

Haiti is once again struggling with a spike in gang-related kidnappings that had diminished after President Jovenel Moïse was fatally shot at his private home on July 7.

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AP reporter Evens Sanon in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, contributed to this report.

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