FBI and State Department diplomatic teams are working to locate and free a group of 17 Christian missionaries kidnapped by a gang in Haiti.

The streets of Port-au-Prince, the capital of Haiti, were quiet Monday as Haitians engaged in a general strike to protest against worsening insecurity and gang violence following the kidnapping of a group of Christian missionaries.

“The population can’t take it anymore,” said Holin Alexis, a motorcycle taxi driver who joined the strike.

Burning tire barricades closed some streets in the capital and other towns, with some people throwing stones at the occasional passing car, the Associated Press reported.

The FBI was working with State Department diplomats to locate and release missionaries in the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, which has been in crisis since the assassination of its prime minister in July.

“The President has been briefed and receives regular updates on what the State Department and the FBI are doing to get these people home safely,” White House Press Secretary Jen said on Monday. Psaki.

“The FBI is part of a coordinated effort by the US government to bring US citizens to safety,” Psaki said, declining to provide further details due to “operational considerations.”

A Haitian gang known for its brazen kidnappings and murders has been accused by Port-au-Prince police of kidnapping American missionaries, including 12 adults and five children. This is the largest such kidnapping reported in recent years.

The group kidnapped by Ohio-based Christian Aid Ministries consisted of 16 US citizens and one Canadian national. They were on a bus after a visit to an orphanage when they were abducted, the group said.

The headquarters of the American missionary group Christian Aid Ministries in Ohio was closed on Monday due to the kidnapping of 12 adults and five children over the weekend by a gang known for its murders and extortion. [Julie Carr Smyth/AP Photo]

“We are entering the third day since seventeen of our workers were kidnapped by a gang in Haiti,” Christian Aid Ministries said in a statement on Monday.

“Civilian authorities in Haiti and the United States are aware of what has happened and are offering to help,” said the group, founded and supported by Amish and Mennonite religious groups.

“We continue to monitor the situation closely and pray sincerely,” the statement said.

Haiti has seen a sharp rise in kidnappings following the assassination of President Jovenel Moise in July as armed gangs take advantage of spreading insecurity, food shortages and the government’s political crisis.

The gang of 400 Mawozo uprooted the group of missionaries in Ganthier, east of the capital Port-au-Prince, Haitian police inspector Frantz Champagne told the AP news agency on Sunday.

The gang, whose name translates roughly to 400 “inexperienced men”, controls the area of ​​Croix-des-Bouquets which includes Ganthier, where the kidnapping took place.

The Center for Analysis and Research on Human Rights in Port-au-Prince has reported an alarming increase in kidnappings in Haiti, with more than 600 in the first three months of 2021, compared to 231 in the corresponding period of 2020.

“The police have shown themselves incapable of confronting the gangs, which have become better organized and which control more and more territory,” Gédéon Jean, director of the center, told Agence France-Presse.