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Ransom demand said to be one of the biggest so far for the group of impoverished families trying to do good
A group of impoverished Haitian gangsters is seeking $17m (£13m) for the kidnapping of four Canadian and American missionaries who were taken from a mountain reserve in 2015.
The kidnappers, who used cranes to lift the eight men, and women, two toddlers and a newborn onto trucks, took them from a mountain reserve about 20 miles north of the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince.
The unpaid ransom demand is one of the largest yet made by kidnappers attempting to extort money out of their victims.
The group was heading to the mountain reserve, less than 10 miles from the capital, with enough food for eight days to build wells.
The group of 10 was traveling up the mountain on a cargo truck when the driver decided to stop for gas. He then stopped the truck and got out, before being dragged away by the kidnappers.
The group left behind a chaotic and partially successful six-week mission called Hope World Outreach, which aimed to provide clean water and alternative food sources to communities in rural Haiti.
Speaking at a press conference on Friday, one of the missionaries, mother-of-two Laura Silsby, said she learned from church sources that $17m was the ransom demand. She said she had no idea how it was being paid.
On Friday, five police officers were placed at the church where Silsby lives. She said the group had learned that the police do not trust them with information about the missing women.
But she said they were grateful for the work of the police, soldiers and the Canadian consul in their efforts to search for the women.
“The police are amazing,” she said. “They’re running from house to house. They’re not political. They’re there. And we’re just grateful that they’re there.”
Silsby added that, despite the large sum of money being demanded, it was normal for kidnappers to try to make money from their victims.
The seven other missionaries – from California, Alaska and Texas – were found and rescued in August 2016.
Weeks later, a Toronto man convicted of helping the accused kidnappers, Graham Hunt, was sentenced to 11 years in prison.