The kidnappers have demanded a $1 million ransom for the group, which includes one French priest and one French nun.

FILE PHOTO: A pilgrim holds a bronze crucifix and a pamphlet as he follows the Way of the Cross procession during Easter Holy Week in Port-au-prince, on April 2, 2021
FILE PHOTO: A pilgrim holds a bronze crucifix and a pamphlet as he follows the Way of the Cross procession during Easter Holy Week in Port-au-prince, on April 2, 2021 (AFP Archive)

Seven Catholic clergy, including two French citizens, have been kidnapped in Haiti, said the spokesman of the Bishop's Conference for the island nation, which has been rocked by unrest.

Five priests and two nuns were abducted in the morning in Croix-des-Bouquets, a commune northeast of the capital Port-au-Prince, while they were "on their way to the installation of a new parish priest," Father Loudger Mazile told AFP.

The kidnappers had demanded a $1 million ransom for the group, which includes one French priest and one French nun, he added.

Haitian authorities suspect an armed gang called "400 Mawozo" – which is active in kidnappings – is behind the abduction, according to a police source.

The French embassy in Haiti did not respond to AFP's request for comment.

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Kidnappings on rise

Kidnappings for ransom have surged in recent months in Port-au-Prince and other provinces, reflecting the growing influence of armed gangs in the Caribbean nation.

"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.

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Source: AFP