US charges Haitian gang leader with kidnappings

federal prosecutors in USA charged the leader of a haitian gang notoriously violent in connection with the kidnapping of 16 Americans last year, the Justice Department reported Tuesday.

Germine Joly, 29, who is also known as “Yonyon,” is accused of leading the 400 Mawozo gang and is the first person charged by Justice Department prosecutors with involvement in the kidnapping of Christian missionaries. Last week he was extradited to USA and faces other charges in a firearms trafficking case, prosecutors said.

The indictment indicates that Germine was in a Haitian prison during the kidnappings, but nonetheless managed to direct the operations of his gang, including negotiating ransom for the release of hostages. One of the stated goals of the kidnapping was for the Haitian government to release Germine from prison, according to prosecutors.

A total of 17 people from a missionary group, 12 adults and five minors, were kidnapped on October 16, shortly after visiting an orphanage in Ganthier, in the Croix-des-Bouquets area, the group said. The group was made up of 16 Americans and one Canadian.

Twelve of the kidnapped missionaries escaped during a daring nighttime maneuver, eluding their kidnappers and walking for miles (kilometers) through difficult terrain under the light of the moon. The group followed the stars to reach safety after an ordeal of two months in sequestration, according to employees at Christian Aid Ministries, the Ohio-based agency for which the missionaries worked.

Initially, the kidnappers from the 400 Mawozo gang demanded millions of dollars in ransom. Previously, five hostages had been released. It is still unknown if any ransom was paid. The 12 hostages who escaped were flown to Florida on a Coast Guard flight from USA and then they met with the five hostages previously released.

Germine is scheduled to appear in court for the first time on Wednesday. It is unclear at this time if she has an attorney to comment on her behalf.

“This case demonstrates that the Justice Department will be relentless in our efforts to track down anyone who kidnaps a United States citizen. USA overseas,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement. “We will use all of our law enforcement powers to hold accountable anyone who is responsible for undermining the safety of Americans anywhere in the world.”

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