Story highlights Another victim has been identified, 15 members of the missionary team
As a result, the teams’ leader and wife are no longer in Haiti
The kidnapping of 17 members of a missionary team in Haiti earlier this month is the latest in a string of kidnappings aimed at Americans, according to local security officials.
The team members — most of them adults who were married with children — were kidnapped last week in an attack near Haiti’s tourist city of Les Cayes, CNN reports.
All are members of the Eden Mission Church in Fort Myers, Florida. The mission was active in Haiti prior to Hurricane Matthew.
According to a security source involved in the investigation, “There is no link between the Haitian citizens and the missionaries.”
However, CNN found a security guard on the border of the parish where the team lived who said he was “preliminary witnesses” to the kidnapping but does not believe that the missionaries knew their attackers.
Most of the family members of the missionaries live in Fort Myers, and five of them are from the same address.
The kidnapped missionary team were both American Christians and married with children, the missionary’s pastor said.
The bodies of the victims have not been released.
“Right now, we are trying to take care of their immediate needs,” said Pastor Dan Stoltenberg of Eden Mission Church.
More arrests have been made as authorities determine the identities of the kidnappers, a police spokesman said.
Investigators have discovered a number of items in the kidnappers’ possession, including a cache of handguns, police said.
Still, most believe the kidnappers were members of a local criminal gang in the area.
CNN reported that one security official told the network that the gang is “not that worried about the price of fuel because they get that from the road.”
The armed gang is believed to be responsible for several kidnappings and burglaries, including several violent robberies of tourists in Haiti, according to the security source.
Haiti’s previous tourist industry was driven largely by Americans and Europeans.
Over the past decade, however, tourism has slipped in the impoverished country, which is still rebuilding after a devastating earthquake in 2010.
According to security officials and a security guard, the kidnapping was the first violence committed against foreigners in the area in a while.