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Haiti's Preval urges end to abductions

Haiti's Preval urges end to abductions

Haiti's President Rene Preval asked kidnappers to stop targeting youngsters during a somber holiday address Sunday in the impoverished Caribbean nation.
Preval made his plea before handing gifts to 500 disabled children at the national palace in Port-au-Prince. Standing beside Haitian music stars and an aide dressed as Santa Claus, he first implored and then threatened criminals to stop abducting children.
"Gangs, for me, please give the kids a chance," he said. "If you don't give the kids a chance, (the police) will make you."
Spate of kidnappings
Although the total number of abductions is down from previous years, Haiti has suffered a spate of kidnappings in the run-up to the holiday season.
At least 41 people have been kidnapped since November 1 as criminals seek money for Christmas gifts. Many of the victims are children, seized by gangs or abducted by relatives.
Mutilated
The country is still reeling from the case of a 7-year-old boy who was killed and mutilated last month after his parents could not pay a US$680 ransom.
"We hope these kidnappings will end," said teacher Stalina Persine, 48, who attended Sunday's ceremony. "It is a problem for everybody."
Persine's school, which educates mentally disabled children, is careful to send adults to escort children outside the building and conducts frequent headcounts to ensure no students are missing.
Police are currently searching for at least five missing children, including a young girl last seen being taken by boat from the southern peninsula town of Jeremie, and a boy whose family was told to pay US$30,000 for his return.
Eight arrested
Officials announced the arrest of eight Port-au-Prince kidnappers in recent days, including a suspected ringleader whom police identified by the nickname "Pharaoh."
Although kidnappings have spiked in the last two months, the number of victims is a fraction of the 225 tallied in November and December last year, or the 313 people abducted in the same period of 2005.


Updated : 2021-03-03 07:59 GMT+08:00