PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — A protest strike has shuttered businesses, schools and public transportation in a new blow to Haiti's anemic economy, and unions and other groups vow to continue the shutdown Tuesday in anger over worsening crime as authorities try to rescue 17 kidnapped members of a U.S.-based missionary group.
FBI agents and other U.S. officials are helping Haitian authorities hunt for 12 adults and five children linked to Christian Aid Ministries in Ohio, who were kidnapped Saturday during a trip to visit an orphanage.
The group includes 16 Americans and one Canadian, as well as five children. Christian Aid Ministries confirmed Monday that the adults ranged in age from 18 to 48 and that the five children who were kidnapped were aged 8 months, 3 years, 6 years, 13 years, and 15 years.
The Wall Street Journal reports that the members of the "400 Mawozo" gang that carried out the kidnapping are seeking a ransom of $17 million for their safe return.
According to CNN, Haitian Justice Minister Liszt Quitel said Monday police are in contact with the group but noted that negotiations with the gang could take "weeks."
It is the largest reported kidnapping of its kind in recent years, with Haitian gangs growing more brazen.
Gangs have been accused of kidnapping schoolchildren, doctors, police officers, bus passengers and others as they grow more powerful.