Search
  • ctownsendeqc762

FLASH ALERT: US MISSIONARIES KIDNAPPED BY GANGS IN HAITI

Updated: Oct 18

Team: SOUTHCOM

Week of: Monday, October 11, 2021


UN Peacekeeper Patrolling Port-Au-Prince, Haiti[1]

The Counterterrorism Group (CTG) is issuing a FLASH ALERT for both foreigners and the citizens of Haiti following the kidnapping of 17 United States (US) missionaries and their families by gang members in Port-Au-Prince. The kidnapping is consistent with previous gang strategies which have targeted foreign aid delivery personnel and foreigners administering assistance following social, political, and economic crises in Haiti.[2] The assassination of former President Jovenel Moïse in July 2021, combined with the impact of the earthquake in August 2021, have provided gangs an opportunity to increase their violent activities and seek control within Haiti. Targeting US missionaries will likely divert aid personnel away from Haiti which will worsen the multiple crises facing the country.


On Saturday, October 16, 2021 up to 17 US missionaries, including family members, were kidnapped by the 400 Mawozo gang in Port-Au-Prince, Haiti.[3] The missionaries, from Christian Aid Ministries, were traveling from an orphanage where they were volunteering to the airport.[4] The US embassy and the mission field manager are working on a response to the incident.[5] Haiti has been struggling with multiple social, economic, and political crises throughout 2021.[6] It also has the “highest per capita kidnapping rate on Earth” as kidnappings by gangs are a source of income as well as useful for maintaining control.[7] Following the earthquake on August 14, 2021, Jimmy Cherizier, leader of the G9 Revolutionary Forces gang, declared that aid workers would not be targeted, due to the critical need for assistance, but this attack indicates a shift from the previous policy.[8] This event highlights the levels of insecurity and instability within Haiti and demonstrates that individuals providing aid and assistance are at risk of being attacked and kidnapped by gangs. Further attacks on foreign citizens are very likely and CTG assesses that the threat level in Haiti for both foreign nationals and domestic citizens is HIGH.


The recent attack on foreign citizens has occurred following various social, political, and economic challenges in the country. The assassination of former President Moïse triggered civil and political unrest, giving greater power to the already powerful gangs.[9] The climate of uncertainty and fear that ensued following the assassination has likely created opportunities for gangs within Haiti to increase their control of territories and to act with greater impunity. Given the government and security apparatuses were unable to prevent the assassination of the country’s head of State, as they were focused in facing the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact, the influence of gangs is likely to continue to grow. This ability to operate unhindered will almost certainly result in an increase in illicit activities which is very likely to tighten the gangs’ grip on Haiti. If gang influence increases, kidnappings are also likely to increase as a tactic to finance gang operations and maintain control.


In August 2021, a 7.2 magnitude earthquake killed over 2,000 Haitians, and injured at least 12,000, crippling critical infrastructure and resulting in mass displacement.[10] This triggered international efforts to assist Haitians in rebuilding critical infrastructure, administering essential aid, and promoting domestic stability.[11] However, the recent attack on US missionaries and their families demonstrates a concerning shift towards targeting foreigners. The attack on Saturday, October 16, 2021, will almost certainly deter foreign citizens from assisting Haiti in current and future crises.[12] Without foreign support, Haiti’s social, political, and economic stability is at risk. This will very likely slow down the reconstruction of infrastructure in the short to medium term and halt socio-economic progress. This is likely to affect the opportunities for Haitians and, without foreign aid support, economic conditions will likely continue to deteriorate. Given the worsening situation in Haiti, many citizens will likely seek refuge in nearby countries. This will likely place a great strain on regional countries, particularly those dealing with socio-economic crises due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The US will likely see an increase in Haitian refugees, particularly if conditions continue to deteriorate.


Haiti has witnessed severe socio-economic impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic. Pre-existing high levels of poverty and inequality, worsened by the 2010 earthquake, have been exacerbated by COVID-19.[13] It is very likely that gangs have engaged in illicit activity taking advantage of the socio-economic vulnerabilities. Without a strong government to support its population through the pandemic, Haitians have likely been forced to rely on underground market goods and services. The lack of access to critical healthcare has likely led to a greater reliance on foreign support which includes financial assistance and skilled assistance from foreign aid workers such as doctors. However, this support will likely decrease following the October 16 kidnapping. The attack demonstrates both the extent of gang control and the inability of Haiti’s security forces to protect foreign nationals. This will almost certainly reduce financial assistance to Haiti from foreign governments due to the fear of funds and supplies being targeted by gangs. The US government will almost certainly stop funding until US citizens are safely returned and may reassess long-term funding commitments, and this is very likely to have a negative impact Haitian citizens, dependent on external support. However, the withdrawal of US funding is very likely to increase the number of Haitians fleeing the country and worsen the current migration crisis at the southern US border.


CTG recommends that the US act immediately to ensure the security of the US citizens currently held by Haitian gang members. Swift action will likely reassure foreign aid workers that in the event of kidnapping or gang violence, their government will respond quickly to ensure their safety. The US government should work with Haiti’s security forces to track down and apprehend the individuals responsible for the kidnapping. Additionally, the US and other governments should continue providing aid to Haiti as suspension of financial assistance will almost certainly worsen the insecurity and instability in Haiti, and reinforce Haitian gang control. The SOUTHCOM Team will continue to monitor any developments in the current situation as well as the broader drivers of insecurity within Haiti. The SOUTHCOM Team will work with the NORTHCOM Team to effectively monitor US responses to the current situation and evaluate which actions have the best potential to improve the current situation.


CTG assesses that the current threat climate is HIGH. Gangs within Haiti present credible threats to the safety and security of both citizens and foreign nationals offering assistance. This attack represents a shift from avoiding foreign aid workers to indiscriminately attacking them. This is a cause for significant concern as this is likely to lead to the diversion of foreign aid and assistance.[14] Haiti not only requires significant financial support but also support from skilled healthcare workers.[15] Therefore, if the October 16 attack deters foreign aid workers from entering the country, Haiti’s current crises are likely to deepen. It is also likely to have flow-on effects which would negatively impact development within Haiti and prolong the effects of COVID-19 and of multiple natural disasters, and the political crisis following the assassination of former President Moïse.


Analysis indicates that there is a HIGH PROBABILITY that further kidnappings of foreign citizens will occur and that gang violence will continue to pose a risk to both Haitians and foreigners administering aid. The analysis indicates that the October 16 attack is very likely to have social, economic, and health impacts on Haitian citizens, particularly if international support is reduced in response to the kidnappings.


The Counterterrorism Group (CTG) produces Worldwide Analysis of Terrorism, Crime, and Hazards (W.A.T.CH) intelligence to deliver critical intelligence and investigation services to pinpoint and assess regional variations of global threats. We can provide you with the safety and protection needed to feel secure. No matter if it’s just one person or an entire organization, we can handle everything for your peace of mind. We are the present, and future solution to the ever-evolving global threat landscape. To find out more about our products and W.A.T.C.H. services visit us at counterterrorismgroup.com.

[1]UN Peacekeepers Patrol Port-au-Prince Slum” licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

[2] Gang violence and security vacuum in Haiti thwart aid delivery, The New Humanitarian, July 2021, https://www.thenewhumanitarian.org/news/2021/7/20/gang-violence-and-security-vacuum-in-haiti-thwart-aid-delivery

[3] Reports: Up to 17 U.S. missionaries kidnapped in Haiti, Axios, October 2021, https://www.axios.com/american-missionaries-kidnapped-haiti-ee73155e-8e5a-44f3-9f16-04613317ad19.html

[4] Up to 17 U.S. missionaries and family kidnapped in Haiti - media, Reuters, October 2021, https://www.reuters.com/world/seventeen-us-missionaries-family-kidnapped-haiti-nyt-2021-10-17/

[5] Ibid

[6] Reports: Up to 17 U.S. missionaries kidnapped in Haiti, Axios, October 2021, https://www.axios.com/american-missionaries-kidnapped-haiti-ee73155e-8e5a-44f3-9f16-04613317ad19.html

[7] Ibid

[8] Earthquake aid flowing after Haiti gang truce opens up highway, Al Jazeera, August 2021, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/8/25/haiti-gang-truce-opens-up-road-to-earthquake-aid

[9] Gang boss wades into Haiti turmoil, sees conspiracy behind president's killing, Reuters, July 2021, https://www.reuters.com/world/americas/rival-haitian-leaders-battle-power-after-presidents-assassination-2021-07-10/

[10] Emergency response Haiti earthquake, UNICEF, September 2021, https://www.unicef.org/lac/media/27921/file/UNICEF%20Response%20Haiti%20Earthquake.pdf

[11] Massive earthquake strikes Haiti; UN working with aid partners to support response, United Nations, August 2021, https://news.un.org/en/story/2021/08/1097822

[12] Emergency response Haiti earthquake, UNICEF, September 2021, https://www.unicef.org/lac/media/27921/file/UNICEF%20Response%20Haiti%20Earthquake.pdf

[13] THE IMPACT OF COVID-19 ON POVERTY IN HAITI, Borgen Project, July 2021, https://borgenproject.org/impact-of-covid-19-on-poverty-in-haiti/

[14] Earthquake aid flowing after Haiti gang truce opens up highway, Al Jazeera, August 2021, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/8/25/haiti-gang-truce-opens-up-road-to-earthquake-aid

[15] Emergency response Haiti earthquake, UNICEF, September 2021, https://www.unicef.org/lac/media/27921/file/UNICEF%20Response%20Haiti%20Earthquake.pdf

134 views

Recent Posts

See All