By Maija Ehlinger and Caitlin Hu, CNN
Two missionaries kidnapped in Haiti over a month ago have been released, according to a statement by the US-based Christian Aid Ministries.
“We have learned that two of the hostages in Haiti were released. We praise God for this! Only limited information can be provided, but we are able to report that the two hostages who were released are safe, in good spirits, and being cared for,” the organization said Sunday.
“While we rejoice at this release, our hearts are with the fifteen people who are still being held,” the statement also said.
The group of 16 Americans and one Canadian were kidnapped by the Haitian gang 400 Mawozo while traveling by car northeast of capital city Port-au-Prince on October 16. They include an infant, a 3-year-old and a 6-year-old, as well as two young teenagers. All hail from Amish, Mennonite and other conservative Anabaptist communities across six US states and Ontario.
Authorities in the US and Haiti have not publicly commented on whether any of the hostages were released. Haitian police, the US Embassy in Haiti, the Justice Minister, the Foreign Minister and the Prime Minister’s Office, and the US State Department did not respond immediately to requests for comment.
US and Haitian authorities, as well as the aid organization, have largely kept quiet about negotiations to release the hostages. Their captors had demanded $1 million per hostage, Haitian Justice and Interior Minister Liszt Quitel previously told CNN.
Kidnappings for ransom in Haiti are widespread and often indiscriminate, targeting rich and poor, young and old. Rising crime has accompanied the country’s political instability, with kidnappings spiking in the months after the July assassination of President Jovenel Moise, according to local human rights organization CARDH. The 400 Mawozo group is particularly notorious for group kidnappings.
“Has a month ever been this long? We think back to the first few days when our hopes were pinned on a quick response and a timely release, and our hearts cry, ‘Lord, how much longer must this continue?'” wrote the unnamed mother of one of the hostages in an earlier statement by Christian Aid Ministries, released November 19.
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CNN’s Samantha Beech, Joe Sutton, Etant Dupain and Matt Rivers contributed to this report.