American couple kidnapped off bus in Haiti

An American couple has been kidnapped from a bus in Haiti and are being held for ransom, their family members have said.

Jean-Dickens Toussaint, 33, and his wife, Abigail Toussaint, from Tamarac, Florida, were in Haiti to see ailing relatives and attend a festival when they were abducted on a bus ride from the capital Port-au-Prince last Saturday.

The couple has a one-year-old son who was staying with a relative during the incident.

The kidnappers initially demanded $6,000 (£4,907) for the couple’s release but once the money was sent, the miscreants raised the price to $200,000 (£163,572) per person.

"We don't have that kind of money," Nikese Toussaint, the sister of the abducted man, told ABC News.

A family friend who met the couple at the airport to escort them was also reportedly kidnapped.

"We were very worried when they said they were going, we told them not to go but they wanted to go," the sister added.

Christie, the victims’ niece, who only gave her first name, said she was still in a "state of shock".

“It feels like it didn’t happen, but I know it did, especially since I saw them last month for my birthday.

"They stopped the bus at a stop and then asked for Americans to get off the bus and their escorts off the bus, and then they took them,” she told Local10 News.

The US state department said it was aware of the reports of the Florida citizens missing in Haiti. “When a US citizen is missing, we work closely with local authorities as they carry out their search efforts, and we share information with families however we can,” the department said in a statement.

The state department has advised Americans to "not travel" to Haiti due to "kidnapping, crime, and civil unrest".

The UN on Tuesday said nearly 260 kidnappings have been reported since the beginning of the year, with people abducted from their homes or public places.

It added that new clashes between gangs in and around Haiti’s capital have killed at least 187 people in less than two weeks and injured more than 150 others.

The fresh wave of violence recorded between 27 February and 9 March in Port-au-Prince and in the central region of Artibonite also has displaced hundreds of people and forced farmers to abandon fields as starvation worsens, officials said.

“The situation is all the more alarming for children, who are often subjected to all forms of armed violence, including forced recruitment and sexual violence,” the UN said in a statement.