A Florida couple who went to Haiti to visit sick family members have been kidnapped and are being held for ransom, their family says.
Abigail and Jean-Dickens Toussaint were making their way to Leogan, about 27 miles west of Port-au-Prince, but never made it. They have not been heard from since March 18.
The US state department advises Americans not to travel to Haiti “due to kidnapping, crime, and civil unrest”. It has not confirmed the kidnapping but said it is “aware of reports of two US citizens missing in Haiti”.
“The US department of state and our embassies and consulates abroad have no greater priority than the safety and security of US citizens overseas,” the federal agency said.
The State Department said in a statement Sunday that it was aware of reports that two Americans were missing in Haiti.
“When a U.S. citizen is missing, we work closely with local authorities as they carry out their search efforts, and we share information with families however we can. We have nothing further to share at this time.”
State Department said in a statement.
The Toussaints’ kidnappers demanded $6,000 for the couple’s release, a relative said, but then they upped the ransom to $200,000 each after the money was paid. “We don’t have that type of money,” Jean Dickens Toussaint’s sister, Nikese Toussaint, said.
“We were very worried when they said they were going, we told them not to go but they wanted to go,” she added.
A family friend who met the couple at the airport to escort them was also kidnapped, a niece of the couple said.
“They stopped the bus at a stop and they asked for the Americans on the bus and their escorts to come off the bus and then they took them,” she said.
The Toussaints’ kidnapping comes after aid agencies warned this week of a “hunger emergency” as armed gangs paralyze the poor Caribbean nation. A World Food Programme (WFP) report said nearly half the population is regularly going hungry.
“These are the worst conditions on record,” said WFP’s Haiti director, Jean-Martin Bauer. “Food insecurity in Haiti has been going downhill and Haiti is sliding into a hunger emergency.”