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Up to 17 American Christian missionaries and their families, including children, were abducted Saturday by gang members in Haiti’s capital Port-au-Prince, US media reported.

The kidnapping occurred after missionaries left an orphanage in the crisis-ridden Caribbean nation, the New York Times reported.

The Washington Post reported that an audio from Ohio-based Christian Aid Ministries said that “men, women and children” associated with the group were being held by an armed gang.

“The mission field director and the US embassy are working to see what can be done,” the audio was quoted as saying. “Pray for gang members to come to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ.”

The victims included 14 adults and three minors, CNN said, citing an anonymous source from Haitian security forces.

They were traveling to Titanyen after visiting the orphanage in the Croix des Bouquets area, CNN said. The Times, citing local officials, said the missionaries were taken off a bus heading to the airport to drop off some members of the group before continuing to another destination in Haiti.

The US State Department is aware of the reports, a spokesperson told Reuters, but did not offer details. “The welfare and safety of American citizens abroad is one of the highest priorities of the State Department,” the spokesman said in an email.

The U.S. Embassy in Haiti did not respond to a request for comment outside of business hours. A Haitian police spokeswoman said she was seeking information on the matter.

An increase in gang violence has displaced thousands and hampered economic activity in the country. Violence soared after the assassination of President Jovenel Moise in July and an earthquake in August that the United States killed more than 2,000 people.

(Edited by : Aditi Gautam)



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