Haiti frees group of US missionaries kidnapped last week

Written by Staff Writer, CNN

Two of the nine Americans kidnapped in Haiti’s south were released Friday after their group was freed from a guarded area, according to officials.

“There was no force used, but a lasting and profound message was sent that violence does not pay, and people will never be intimidated in the face of injustice,” said Greg Savage, CEO of JASUSA Ministries, on the organization’s website.

One of the kidnapping victims, Troy Williams, was identified by the official French language newspaper Ma Maison as one of the hostages.

The two others — Katie Campbell and Trevor Covington — were released Friday night “with the approval of Haitian authorities,” according to a JASUSA statement.

“Based on that [approval], we are still awaiting further clarification, but anticipate that the remaining missionaries will soon be released and no longer in harm’s way.”

The group from JASUSA Ministries was seized July 1 on a road in Haiti’s Artibonite Valley, according to police and the United States Embassy in Port-au-Prince.

Haiti’s Interior Ministry on Friday confirmed it had been working with the US Embassy to find the group.

“The number of captives has been updated and they are safe,” ministry spokeswoman Julie Pierre-Louis said Friday night. “There was no violence involved in the release of the hostages.”

The mother of one of the hostages posted a message to Facebook saying her son was free and surrounded by at least 50 soldiers.

“I can’t get words out of my mouth,” Sharon Toney told CNN affiliate WPLG in Miami. “I am so in awe of the moment.”

Toney said her son spoke to her by phone.

“We are on our way back to our home,” she said. “He is happy, he is celebrating with family.”

The kidnappings happened near Haiti’s border with the Dominican Republic.

“Haiti border patrol agents, as well as the international police force, the Police for Prefects of the Municipalities of Les Cayes and Cap-Haitien, carried out a search and found the nine American hostages in the Artibonite, where they were to meet with authorities,” the government said in a statement.

The four children from the group, ages 4 to 10, were released on Monday by their kidnappers, but one adult and three children remained, US State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said at the time.

Nauert said the State Department was working with Haitian authorities to secure the release of the other Americans, but it did not release their names.

“The Embassy is working closely with local authorities to facilitate the safe release of the remaining kidnapped hostages,” she said.

The announcement about the release came one day after the State Department issued a travel alert for all Americans in Haiti, urging US citizens to “err on the side of caution” and to check the status of their activities in the country.

“The increased risk of kidnapping for foreigners persists,” the alert said.

“Extortion is common and potential targets for kidnappers in Haiti include US citizens, expatriates, and tourists.”

In 2016, American missionary Sue Anne Terry was kidnapped in Haiti. A music journalist who went with her was killed in a shootout with kidnappers, and Terry escaped.

The British government canceled all non-essential travel to Haiti in 2016 following the kidnappings.

The kidnapping campaign has shaken up Haiti’s political climate as the government faces a contested presidential election.

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