KEY POINTS

  • There were 16 U.S. citizens and one Canadian citizen in the group
  • One American missionary sent the message to a WhatsApp group while the kidnapping was happening
  • U.S. officials are now working with Haitian authorities for the group's release

One of the 17 missionaries kidnapped by a gang in Port-au-Prince, Haiti on Saturday sent a heartbreaking final message on WhatsApp as the group was being abducted. 

A group of 16 U.S. citizens and one Canadian citizen was abducted Saturday while traveling by bus to Titanyen, north of the country’s capital. As the kidnapping was occurring, one American citizen was able to post a harrowing cry for help in a WhatsApp group. 

“Please pray for us!! We are being held hostage, they kidnapped our driver. Pray pray pray. We don’t know where they are taking us,” the message shared with The Washington Post read.

It is unclear if the message was sent via text or video. The report also did not identify the WhatsApp group in question. 

The International Business Times cannot independently verify the authenticity of the message.

A senior State Department official said the Biden administration is now working with Haitian authorities at the highest levels about the kidnapping, adding that they are prioritizing the “welfare and safety” of American citizens living abroad. 

A senior U.S. official familiar with the discussions told CNN that the current location of the kidnapped missionaries remains unknown. However, the FBI and State Department officials are already working to secure their release.

U.S. Congressman Adam Kinzinger, R-IL, also pledged that the U.S. will do anything possible to negotiate the missionary group’s release. 

The Christian aid group included seven women, five men and five children, according to a news release from the Christian Aid Ministries. 

The Haitian police said the 400 Mawozo gang was likely behind the kidnapping. The criminal gang has been associated with kidnapping five priests and two nuns in April. They are also known for mass kidnapping people from buses and cars in recent months, according to the New York Post

Days before the kidnapping, a senior United Nations diplomat and Haitian officials revealed plans to resolve the increasing gang violence in the country, including arresting gang leaders. 

“This could be a response to that,” Amy Wilentz, a journalism professor at the University of California at Irvine, told The New York Times.

Haiti has been plagued by multiple crises in 2021, including the abduction of some 15 missionaries and children by a criminal gang operating in and around the capital Port-au-Prince Haiti has been plagued by multiple crises in 2021, including the abduction of some 15 missionaries and children by a criminal gang operating in and around the capital Port-au-Prince Photo: AFP / CHANDAN KHANNA