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26762: (news) Chamberlain: Haiti-Kidnappings (fwd)
From: Greg Chamberlain <GregChamberlain@compuserve.com>
By ALFRED de MONTESQUIOU
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Dec 2 (AP) -- Gunmen have released 14 Haitian children
and an American missionary who were abducted in separate incidents, police
The missionary, Phillip Snyder, was released Friday after a ransom was
paid, said police Commissioner Francois Henri Doussous, head of Haiti's
anti-kidnapping unit. He would not specify how much was paid but said it
was "much less" than the $300,000 the kidnappers initially sought.
The gunmen released the children and their school bus driver unharmed
Thursday night, hours after their bus was hijacked by gunmen on the way to
The kidnappings came five weeks before national elections to restore
democracy to Haiti, which has seen a sharp increase in abductions amid the
chaos following the ouster of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in February
Doussous said police did not believe the latest kidnappings were
politically motivated. "This is purely criminal activity, the gangs need
money," he said.
It was not immediately clear who paid the ransom for Snyder. Doussous
said the kidnappers were members of criminal gangs based in Cite Soleil, a
sprawling seaside slum that is a base for heavily armed gangs blamed for
Snyder, 48, was treated for a gunshot wound to his shoulder and released
from a U.N. military hospital, police said. The president of Zeeland,
Mich.-based Glow Ministries International was abducted Thursday on the main
road leading north from the Haitian capital.
"My father is fine," Chad Snyder, the kidnapped missionary's son, said
in a brief telephone interview in Port-au-Prince.
The missionary's wife, Amber Snyder, said before his release that she
and her husband were aware of the dangers in Haiti but kept it in the back
of their minds. She said her husband's family has worked in Haiti for more
than three decades helping the poor.
"He's a foreigner. They assume every foreigner has money or has
resources," Amber Snyder, who met her husband on a Christian mission trip
in Haiti when she was 17, told The Associated Press before hearing of her
A young boy kidnapped along with Snyder was freed and in good condition.
The missionary had been helping the boy obtain a medical visa so he could
have eye surgery, Amber Snyder said.
"There's a tremendous sense of relief," Amber Snyder's uncle, Denny
Bull, said from Zeeland after Snyder was freed. "We had confidence that
this would happen. We just did not know when."
Haitian radio reported that an unspecified ransom was paid for the
kidnapped children, but Doussous said the gunmen received no money. He said
they released the hostages because of intense public attention and because
police checkpoints prevented them from returning to Cite Soleil on the
outskirts of Port-au-Prince.
The children were aged 5-17. There were no arrests.
Doussous said police favored negotiating with the gangs, fearing that a
raid on Cite Soleil would ignite a large-scale gun battle, endangering
A U.N. peacekeeper was killed by gangs in October during a raid in Cite
Soleil to release a kidnap victim.
Associated Press Writer David Eggert in Zeeland, Mich., contributed to