PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Eight Turkish citizens have been kidnapped in Haiti’s capital, an official told The Associated Press on Monday, apparently the latest in a string of high-profile kidnappings by powerful gangs.
Hugues Josue, Turkey’s honorary consul in Haiti, said the group had boarded a bus in the neighboring Dominican Republic and were kidnapped late Sunday afternoon in the Croix-des-Bouquets neighborhood of Port-au-Prince. Those kidnapped were five men and three women, he said.
Josue said he did not have any details on a potential ransom request, and no additional information was immediately available.
Meanwhile, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told reporters that a “crisis desk” had been set up in Haiti and that Turkey was following the issue closely.
“They are thought to have been kidnapped for ransom,” Cavusoglu said. “There is negative concerning the state of their health at the moment.”
Croix-des-Bouquets is controlled by the 400 Mawozo gang, which kidnapped 17 members of a U.S.-based missionary group in the same area last October. The gang demanded $1 million in ransom and held most of them until December.
A diplomat from the Dominican Republic was kidnapped in the same neighborhood earlier this month and later freed.
Last week, Haiti’s National Police announced that one of the top leaders of the 400 Mawozo gang, Germine Joly, was extradited to the U.S. He faces charges involving kidnapping, smuggling and import of weapons of war.
The violence and insecurity has prompted Haitians to organize protests to demand safer neighborhoods.
Gang violence has forced dozens of schools and businesses to close in recent weeks and displaced thousands of families, with many of them seeking temporary shelter in schools and shelters as aid groups note an urgent need for food and items including blankets and mattresses.
The United Nations announced Friday that at least 75 people had been killed in the most recent gang clashes, including women and children, and more than 65 injured. It also noted gang rapes of children as young as 10, adding that the violence has greatly limited travel from the capital to Haiti's northern and southern regions.
Associated Press reporter Suzan Frazer in Ankara, Turkey, contributed to this report.