A powerful criminal gang led by an international drug trafficker is suspected of kidnapping 17 missionaries in Haiti earlier this year, a Haitian security official said Thursday.
The gang has been kidnapping tourists in the tourist-friendly city of Leogane, 120 miles north of Port-au-Prince, since at least 2014, according to the official.
“We are certain that they are the same gang that kidnapped our tourists,” Gerard Robidoux, the director of Leogane police, told reporters in a live broadcast.
Robidoux did not name the gang and could not be reached for comment.
But Robidoux said that several of the kidnappers have been “recruited by two international drug traffickers from Spain and China.” He declined to elaborate.
He did not identify the traffickers or where they are based. There was no immediate response to a request for comment from The Washington Post.
At least six of the kidnapped missionaries are from the Orlando, Florida-based group Young Women’s Christian Association, which was founded in the 1980s.
On Tuesday, the group announced it would resume work in Haiti, following two months of absence, when the hostage-takers released two of the missionaries on July 31.
Three women were still in captivity on Thursday, said Phillippe Yves, a government official in charge of foreign affairs in Leogane.
He said it was too early to say whether the criminal gang, which has strong ties to the nation’s notorious drug trafficking network, had been removed from Haiti, but that was a possibility.
“To release these two foreign tourists, these drug traffickers had to have given them an order and they were given an order to do it,” he said.
Haiti and the United States have put the fugitive operators of the drug ring on their most-wanted list.
A US State Department statement issued earlier this week said Haitians with “access to the organization’s email account” had been recruiting and smuggling drugs over the years.
Rudy Dupoux, a Haitian-American lawyer from Florida who specializes in international crime, has said the trafficking ring is led by Beuys, Thiebaud and Galatia-Mitchell, three brothers from Port-au-Prince who are believed to have controlled the lucrative business since 2007.
The ministry of tourism in Leogane said in April that eight of the kidnapped missionaries were from Florida. The remaining five are all from Haiti and the Dominican Republic.
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