Three of seven Catholic clergy kidnapped in Haiti are released

·2-min read
A street in Port-au-Prince, where anger has grown in recent weeks at the violence and unrest in Haiti

Three of the seven Catholic clergy who were kidnapped in Haiti more than a week ago have been released, a Church spokesman told AFP on Thursday, as the island nation grapples with a rise in violence and ongoing political crisis.

A total of 10 people were abducted in Croix-des-Bouquets, a town northeast of the capital Port-au-Prince, on April 11, including the seven clergy -- five of them Haitian and two of them French.

Father Loudger Mazile, spokesman for the Bishop's Conference for the island nation, said "the French were not released. There were no lay people among those released."

"Three of the seven clergy kidnapped on April 11 were released," he told AFP.

Haiti, the poorest country in the Americas, is plagued by insecurity and natural disaster.

Kidnappings for ransom have surged in recent months in Port-au-Prince and other provinces, reflecting the growing influence of armed gangs in the Caribbean nation.

Haiti's government resigned and a new prime minister was appointed in the wake of the kidnappings, a move President Jovenel Moise said "will make it possible to address the glaring problem of insecurity and continue discussions with a view to reaching the consensus necessary for the political and institutional stability of our country."

The clergy abducted were a group of four priests and a nun from Haiti, as well as one priest and one nun from France. The three non-clergy were members of the family of a Haitian priest, who was not among those kidnapped.

The kidnapped victims were "on their way to the installation of a new parish priest" when they were abducted, Mazile previously told AFP, with the kidnappers demanding a $1 million ransom for the group.

Authorities suspect an armed gang called "400 Mawozo" -- which is active in kidnappings -- is behind the abduction, according to a police source.

Haiti's Catholic Church has slammed the government's failure to act over the country's unrest, decrying the nation's "descent into hell."

"The public authorities who are doing nothing to resolve this crisis are not immune from suspicion," the Archdiocese of Port-au-Prince said in a statement.

The abducted five priests belong to the Society of Priests of St James, which is based in France, their superior general, Paul Dossous, confirmed to AFP.

Paris, meanwhile has opened an investigation into the kidnappings, entrusting the case to France's Central Office for the Fight against Organized Crime (OCLCO), which has jurisdiction over crimes committed against French citizens abroad.

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