Seven Catholic clerics abducted in Haiti, church spokesperson.

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Seven Catholic clerics, including two French civilians, were abducted in Haiti on Sunday, according to the spokesperson for the island nation’s Bishop’s Conference.

Five priests and two nuns were kidnapped in the morning in Croix-des-Bouquets, a commune north-east of Port-au-Prince, while “on their way to the installation of a new parish priest,” according to Father Loudger Mazile.

He added that the kidnappers had requested a $1 million ransom for the party, which included a French priest and a French nun.

According to a police report, Haitian authorities believe the abduction is the work of an armed group known as “400 Mawozo” which is known for kidnappings.

Four of the priests and one of the two nuns are Haitians.

The French embassy in Haiti did not respond to a request for comment from AFP.

Kidnappings for ransom have increased in Port-au-Prince and other provinces in recent months, reflecting the growing presence of armed gangs in the Caribbean country.

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– Gangs on the rise –

“This is too much. The time has come for these inhuman acts to stop,” Bishop Pierre-Andre Dumas of the Haitian commune Miragoane told AFP.

“The Church prays and stands in solidarity with all the victims of this heinous act.”

In March, the Haitian government declared a month-long state of emergency to restore state authority in gang-controlled areas, including in the capital.

The measure was motivated by the actions of armed gangs who “kidnap people for ransom, openly declaring it, steal and loot public and private property, and openly confront the public security forces,” according to the presidential decree.

The rise in gang violence and political instability have recently drawn protesters onto the streets of Port-au-Prince.

A week ago, hundreds of female protesters rallied in the city against the growing power of gangs, which has led to a spike in kidnappings for ransom.

Haiti, the poorest nation in the Americas, has also been mired in a diplomatic crisis for months.

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President Jovenel Moise claims his term ends on February 7, 2022, but others say it ends on February 7, 2021.

The disagreement arises from the fact that Moise was elected in a fraudulent vote and then re-elected a year later.

Without a parliament, the nation plunged further into turmoil in 2020, and Moise is ruling by decree, fueling growing scepticism of him.

In the midst of the turmoil, Moise has announced that a constitutional referendum will be held in June.

 

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