2 KIDNAPPED MISSIONARIES FREED IN HAITI
By STEVENSON JACOBS, Associated Press Writer
July 20, 2006
- Two North Carolina missionaries kidnapped on their way to church in Haiti's
capital were freed Thursday after a ransom was paid, the FBI
Tom Barron, a minister at
The Mustard Seed church, and congregation member William Eugene Seastrum were driving to church early Sunday when assailants
stopped their car and dragged them out, said Leslie Dallemand, chief of the U.N. peacekeeping mission's anti-kidnapping unit.
Both missionaries are from High Point, N.C.
The captors initially sought
$500,000 but lowered their demand to $100,000 during negotiations with the FBI, Dallemand said.
The men were released Thursday
after a ransom was paid, FBI spokeswoman Judy Orihuela said from Miami.
"They negotiated the amount
and they were released," Orihuela said.
She declined to say how
much ransom was paid and had no information about the men's conditions.
"As far as I know, they're
pretty healthy," Dallemand said earlier. "The kidnappers didn't speak English. They made (one missionary) call his wife in
North Carolina, and he did say he was OK."
Separately, Orihuela said
another American was released Thursday after a day in captivity when an undisclosed ransom was paid.
Also, a Haitian employee
of the U.S. Embassy was kidnapped Wednesday while driving in an embassy vehicle with diplomatic license plates.
Kidnappings, once relatively
rare in Haiti, became a regular occurrence
after a bloody revolt toppled former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in February 2004. Kidnappings leveled off following
the February election of President Rene Preval, but the problem has worsened since.
U.N. officials blame much
of the kidnappings and other violence on well-armed gangs — some of which are loyal to Aristide and want Preval to allow
the ousted president to return from exile in South Africa.
The United Nations, which has about 8,800 peacekeepers in the country, believes
that much of the violence is aimed at destabilizing the new government. But Preval says drug traffickers, corrupt police and
other criminals are behind the problems.
The special U.N. envoy to
Haiti, Edmond Mulet, met with Preval on
Wednesday and Thursday to discuss the deteriorating security climate, officials said.
On Wednesday, gunmen stopped
dozens of cars traveling along a main road leading to the airport in the impoverished capital and tried to seize the occupants,
Dallemand said. At least two Haitians were reported kidnapped.
The attacks were followed
by heavy shooting that killed at least six people and injured several others in different parts of the capital, radio Kiskeya
reported, suggesting a level of coordination among the gangs not seen in months.
It is unclear how long Barron
and Seastrum have been in Haiti. Dallemand
said the two were staying at a hotel in the Port-au-Prince
neighborhood of Delmas, where many kidnappings occur.
Dallemand said the FBI is
working with U.N. and Haitian authorities to free the men, the latest foreign missionaries to be kidnapped.
Last month, Canadian missionary
Ed Hughes was abducted from a rural town north of Port-au-Prince
where he runs an orphanage. The 72-year-old was freed a week later after an undisclosed ransom was paid.
At least 29 people have
been reported kidnapped in Haiti so far in July, and about a third of them
are U.S. citizens, Dallemand said.
Last year, 40 Americans
were kidnapped in Haiti and three more
were killed in attempted abductions, according to the U.S. State Department.