Haiti gang leader threatened to kill hostages: video

Port-au-Prince (AFP) – The leader of a Haitian gang who kidnapped a group of North Americans over the weekend threatened to execute them, according to video seen by AFP.

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The footage shot Wednesday but released Thursday on social media showed Wilson Joseph, clad in a suit and surrounded by armed men, in front of coffins 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 kidnappers are demanding $17 million ransom for the hostages' freedom, security sources have told AFP.

On Saturday a group of 17 US and Canadian missionaries and their children were kidnapped in broad daylight while on a visit to an orphanage in the heart of an area in eastern Port-au-Prince, which is fully under control of the gang.

The Ohio-based Christian Aid Ministries, to which the abducted missionaries belong, said the group included 12 adults aged 18-48, along with five children aged eight months, three, six, 13 and 15.

The United States has advised Americans not to travel to Haiti, in particular due to kidnappings they say regularly include American citizens.

Since December 2020, Haitian police have sought Joseph for crimes including assassination, kidnapping, vehicular theft and the hijacking of cargo trucks.

Meanwhile on Thursday groups of motor taxi drivers blocked main roads and snared traffic in the Haitian capital to protest against fuel shortages caused by gangs controlling oil access.

Across the city demonstrators have voiced outrage over being forced to buy gasoline on the black market.

Gangs' tightening grip on Port-au-Prince since June has prevented secure access to two of Haiti's three oil terminals. Armed groups hijacked more than a dozen tankers at the third, located in the Cite Soleil slum, in early September.

People pass by blazing barricades set by protester angry at fuel prices, as Haiti suffers from deepening social, economic and health crises, as well as a surge of kidnappings by criminal gangs
People pass by blazing barricades set by protester angry at fuel prices, as Haiti suffers from deepening social, economic and health crises, as well as a surge of kidnappings by criminal gangs Richard PIERRIN AFP

On Thursday, near one barricade of flaming tires, protestors accused authorities of favoring fuel importers to the detriment of renewable energy development.

"We don't have an electricity grid in Haiti, so we have to look for diesel to run a generator," said one 30-something student who wished to remain anonymous for security reasons.

"We have all the sun in the world but solar panels are overpriced," he said.