The leader of the Haitian gang suspected of kidnapping 17 members of a missionary group from the United States has threatened to kill the hostages if his demands are not met.
Wilson Joseph, leader of the 400 Mawozo gang, issued the ultimatum in a video posted on social media on Thursday.
“I swear by thunder that if I don’t get what I’m asking for, I will put a bullet in the heads of these Americans,” Joseph said in the video.
Earlier this week, Haitian officials said the gang is demanding $1m in ransom per person to free the hostages.
Speaking in front of the coffins of gang members apparently killed by the police, Joseph threatened Haiti’s Prime Minister Ariel Henry and the chief of National Police Leon Charles in the video,
“You guys make me cry. I cry water. But I’m going to make you guys cry blood,” he said.
Haitian workers went on a general strike on October 18 to protest worsening insecurity and gang violence after the abduction of the Christian missionaries.
“The concern now, especially after this video was published, is that tensions are going to continue to escalate; there’s fear that violence could worsen on the streets,” Rapalo said.
The hostages were abducted after leaving an orphanage outside Port-au-Prince on October 16. Sixteen of the abductees are Americans and one is Canadian. Five of them are children, including an eight-month-old infant.
Christian Aid Ministries, the Ohio-based missionary group whose members were kidnapped, called for a day of fasting and prayers for the hostages on Thursday, urging people to pray for the abductees as well as the kidnappers.
“Pray for the kidnappers, that they would experience the love of Jesus and turn to him, and we see that as their ultimate need,” said Weston Showalter, a spokesperson for the group.
“We also ask for prayer for government leaders and authorities as they relate to the case and work toward the release of the hostages.”