Three of the 17 missionaries abducted by a gang in Haiti were released after an unidentified individual paid a ransom in exchange for the freedom of 15 other detainees, according to workers of the organization in Ohio.
Charisma News reported that an unnamed person paid a ransom last month for the release of all missionaries abducted by the 400 Mawozo gang in Haiti. The first two missionaries were released for medical reasons.
The anonymous individual was reportedly not linked with Christian Aid Ministries (CAM). The ministry's workers don't know who the person is or how much was given to the gang, which demanded $1 million per victim at first. After promising to release all captives, the gang walked back on its promise, releasing just three on Dec. 5.
There have been claims that the group's infighting caused it to backtrack and only release three captives on Dec. 5, rather than releasing all of them. Two former abductees claimed they heard gang members held them to pressure the Haitian government to liberate their boss.
Nonetheless, there have been several reports from former captives claiming that they managed to flee just before being caught or shot because they were so afraid. Rains had reportedly caused the guards to assemble on a more sheltered side of the home, away from where the captives had pushed out a barred entrance and fled for an overnight trip through mud, thorns, and steep terrain.
Other than that, they talked of what they called supernatural deliverance-saying the guard was blinded to their actions, and that no one or anything responded as they passed through the area of an organized crime group that had been taken over by criminals.
Following the abduction of 16 Americans and a Canadian on October 16, recent recorded testimonies by CAM personnel and former hostages to churches and other organizations mark the first time the organization has openly acknowledged that ransom was paid at any point.
CAM authorities admitted in a press conference on December 20 that an unaffiliated party had volunteered to give ransom money, but they refused to reveal as to whether a payment had been made at the time.
In later statements, authorities indicated the organization had resisted paying cash ransom on principle, albeit it had made an offer of food boxes that the kidnappers had refused. In the end, CAM agreed to a third-party proposal to negotiate with the gang.
"In the course of this whole thing, there was Christian Aid Ministries' no-ransom policy," Philip Mast, a CAM Executive Committee member said.
He added that "there was a donor who offered to take the negotiations and deal with the situation, and so CAM accepted that offer, and it was turned over to another party to deal with it. Yes, there was ransom paid, but I don't think [the gang members] had the intention of releasing the prisoners."
On December 18, the 17 hostages and one more member of their family were safely reunited in Florida.
The 400 Mawozo gang kidnapped the 17-member missionary party, which included children, as they were returning from a visit to a CAM-supported orphanage in Ganthier, in the Croix-des-Bouquets region.
Two hostages were freed in November due to medical reasons, and the other 12 returned on Dec. 16.
While CAM authorities have portrayed it as a spectacular escape, an unknown source in the Yonkers Times of New York said that the gang purposely left the door open and let the 12 to walk to freedom in order to meet the ransom contract.
One of those with firsthand the knowledge of the matter indicated that if they had not been permitted to go, someone would have reported the escapees before they made it to safety.