The '400 Mawozo' gang suspected of kidnapping one of Haiti's most dangerous

The gang that police say kidnapped 17 missionaries and their families in Haiti on Saturday is one of the most dangerous in the country a...

The gang that police say kidnapped 17 missionaries and their families in Haiti on Saturday is one of the most dangerous in the country and one of the first to engage in mass kidnappings.

The gang, known as “400 Mawozo”, controls the area from which the missionaries were abducted in the suburbs of Port-au-Prince, the capital. The group has been sowing terror for several months in the suburbs, engaging in armed combat with rival gangs and carry out the kidnapping of businessmen and police officers.

The gang has taken the kidnappings in Haiti to a new level, ripping people off en masse as they take buses or walk the streets in groups the numbers of which might once have protected them.

The gang was accused of kidnapping five priests and two nuns earlier this year. He is also believed to have killed Anderson Belony, a famous sculptor, on Tuesday, according to local media. Mr. Belony had worked to improve his impoverished community.

Croix-des-Bouquets, one of the suburbs now controlled by the gang, has become a virtual ghost town, with many residents fleeing the daily violence.

The once bustling neighborhood now lacks the poor street vendors who lined the sidewalks, some of whom were kidnapped by the gang for what little they had in their pockets or told to sell what little goods they had to. home, including radios or refrigerators. , to pay the ransom. By some estimates, gangs now control around half of the capital.

With each new generation of gangs that arise in Haiti, new lows move closer to normalization. Gangs have plagued Port-au-Prince for the past two decades, but have often been used for political purposes – such as voter suppression – by powerful politicians. They have become a force that now seems out of control, thriving in the economic malaise and desperation that worsens each year, with independent gangs mushrooming in the capital.

While older and more established gangs engage in trafficking to kidnap or carry out the will of their political bosses, newer gangs like “400 Mawozo” rape women and recruit children, forcing young people in their neighborhoods to beat up. those they captured, forming a new, more violent generation of members. Churches, once untouchable, are now a frequent target, with priests kidnapped in the middle of a sermon.

The inhabitants are fed up with the violence, which prevents them from earning a living and prevents their children from going to school. Some started a petition in recent days to protest the rise in gang violence in the region, pointing fingers at the “400 Mawozo” gang and calling on the police to take action. The transport industry also announced a general strike for Monday and Tuesday in Port-au-Prince to protest against gangs and insecurity. The action could become more general, as calls have been made to stay at home in all sectors and storefronts amid insecurity and fuel shortages in the capital.

“The violence suffered by families has reached a new level of horror,” reads the text of the petition. “Heavily armed bandits are no longer content with current abuses, racketeering, threats and kidnappings for ransom. Currently, criminals break into village homes at night, attack families and rape women.

In April, the gang of “400 Mawozo” kidnapped 10 people in Croix-des-Bouquets, including seven members of the Catholic clergy, including five Haitians and two French. The whole group was finally released at the end of April. The kidnappers had demanded a million dollar ransom, but it is still unclear whether it was paid.

Michel Briand, a French priest living in Haiti who was part of the group, said the gang forced their cars out of the way before kidnapping them. “If we hadn’t obeyed them – that’s what they told us afterwards – they would have shot us,” he said.

According to the latest report from the Center for Analysis and Research on Human Rights based in Port-au-Prince, from January to September 2021, there were 628 kidnappings, including 29 foreigners. Haitian gangs have stayed away from kidnappings of U.S. citizens in the past, fearing retaliation from the U.S. government, making 400 Mawozo’s actions all the more brazen.

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Newsrust - US Top News: The '400 Mawozo' gang suspected of kidnapping one of Haiti's most dangerous
The '400 Mawozo' gang suspected of kidnapping one of Haiti's most dangerous
Newsrust - US Top News
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