Haitian Priest Recalls 20-Day Abduction by Gang Still Holding 17 Missionaries for Ransom

Haitian priest Rev. Jean-Nicaisse Milien gave details about a 20-day abduction by the gang that is currently holding 17 missionaries from a U.S. religious organization.

Milien and nine others, including three of his relatives were abducted by the 400 Mawozo gang on April 11 outside of the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince. They demanded $1 million per head — the same ransom made for the missionaries still being held captive.

Milien told the Associated Press, he and the others were kept blindfolded for two days and slept on the dirt floor. They were fed rice, bread and Coca-Cola. "We did our necessities on the ground," he recalled. "It was really difficult."

Over the course of the 20 days, the group changed location three times. On the fourth day of captivity, one person was released. After two weeks, three more, but not Milien.

"The last week was very difficult," he recalled, saying the and the others received no food and barely any water.

After Milien was told the new location doesn't have anything for them but a cemetery he told his fellow captives "Continue to pray. One day, we will be free."

Eventually, the group was released after an undisclosed ransom was paid.

"It's not easy. Every time we remember something. Every time we think about something... it is a part of my life," he said.

His advice to the families of the 17 missionaries still being held captive is never to lose hope as he prays for their release.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Jean-Nicaisse Milien, Haiti, Kidnapped, Missionaries
FILE - Catholic priest Jean-Nicaisse Milien walks to give a Mass in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Sunday, Nov. 7, 2021. Father Milien was kidnapped for 20 days along with other priests, nuns, and civilians in April by the 400 Mawozo gang who have been holding 17 members of a U.S.-based missionary group Christian Aid Ministries for more than 3 weeks. Matias Delacroix/AP Photo

Milien told the AP that the kidnapping began when he felt the cool barrel of a gun against his right ear.

It was around 7 a.m. on April 11, and the group was en route to celebrate the installation of a fellow pastor at a nearby parish when 15 to 20 gang members brandishing heavy weapons surrounded their car.

"Go here! Go here!" the gunmen commanded as they pulled over the car.

On the first day, gang members demanded the group hand over phone numbers of their relatives. The gunmen made calls demanding a ransom.

Their freedom came via a knock on the door on the 20th day of their captivity. It was 11 p.m.

"Wake up! Wake up! Wake up! Let's go!" Milien recalled a gang member yelling.

The group, in its weakened state, walked several yards (meters) to a car that took them to their neighborhood. Milien spent almost a week in the hospital, receiving medication and vitamins as he tried to regain his strength.

"I know the experience is not easy," he said.

As he spoke, the rat-tat-tat of gunfire from a nearby community controlled by another gang rang out.

"We have to do something. The government has to do something because we cannot remain in this situation," Milien said.

Priest Kidnapping, Missionaries, Haiti, Christian Aid Ministries
FILE - This Oct. 21, 2021, photo shows a sign outside Christian Aid Ministries in Titanyen, Haiti, which had 17 of their members kidnapped by the 400 Mawozo gang. Catholic priest Jean-Nicaisse Milien was kidnapped for 20 days along with other priests, nuns, and civilians in April by same gang. Matias Delacroix/AP Photo