PORT-AU-PRINCE (AFP) - Haitian police have received proof that 17 Americans and a Canadian abducted by a gang are alive, a police source said on Thursday (Oct 28).
The missionaries and family members were abducted Oct 16 while returning from an orphanage in an area east of the capital Port-au-Prince controlled by one of Haiti's most powerful crime gangs.
"We have proof that all the hostages are alive," a source with the National Police told Agence France-Presse without saying what kind of proof it was or when it was received.
The police said negotiations with the kidnappers for the release of the hostages are under way and several Federal Bureau of Investigation agents in Haiti are helping with the case.
Christian Aid Ministries, for which the missionaries work, said the hostages are 12 adults aged 18 to 48, and five children ranging in age from eight months to 15 years.
The gang, which calls itself "400 Mawozo", has demanded a ransom of one million dollars per head, AFP has learnt.
In a video posted to social media last week, gang leader Wilson Joseph threatened to kill the hostages.
The footage showed Joseph, wearing a suit and surrounded by armed men, in front of coffins purportedly containing the bodies of five members of his gang.
"Since I'm not getting what I need, I'll kill these Americans," Joseph said, speaking in Haitian Creole.
The United States has advised Americans not to travel to Haiti, in particular due to kidnappings they say regularly include American citizens.
Gangs that control much of Haiti have committed more than 782 kidnappings for ransom so far this year, says the Centre for Human Rights Analysis and Research, based in Port-au-Prince.