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US missionaries say 2 of 17 kidnapped have been freed in Haiti

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PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) Two of 17 members of a missionary group who were kidnapped more than a month ago have been released in Haiti and are safe, in good spirits and in good health, announced their Ohio-based religious organization Sunday.

Christian Aid Ministries issued a statement saying he could not give the names of those released, why they were released or other information.

As we welcome this release, our hearts go out to the 15 people who are still in detention, the group said.

The missionaries were kidnapped by the 400 Mawozo gang on October 16. There are five children in the group of 16 US citizens and one Canadian, including an 8 month old. Their Haitian driver was also kidnapped, according to a local human rights organization.

The leader of the 400 Mawozo gang has threatened to kill the hostages if his demands are not met. Authorities said the gang were demanding $ 1 million per person, although it was not immediately clear the children were part of the group.

Haitian National Police spokesman Gary Desrosiers confirmed to The Associated Press that two hostages were released on Sunday.

The FBI, which is helping Haitian authorities recover the captives, declined to comment.

The liberation comes as Haiti grapples with an increase in gang-related violence and kidnappings, as the US government recently urged US citizens to leave Haiti amid growing insecurity and severe fuel shortages blamed on gangs blocking gas distribution terminals. Canada on Friday announced it was withdrawing all but essential staff from its embassy.

The fuel shortage has forced hospitals to turn away patients and crippled public transport, with some schools closing and businesses shortening their working hours.

Haiti is also trying to recover from the assassination of President Jovenel Moise on July 7 and a magnitude 7.2 earthquake that struck in mid-August, killing more than 2,200 people and destroying tens of thousands. of houses.

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