By Simon Lewis
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -Two U.S. citizens have been kidnapped in Haiti, State Department deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel confirmed on Thursday, adding that Washington is in regular contact with Haitian authorities and will continue to work with them.
Patel declined to provide further details.
CNN reported last week that a Florida couple, Abigail and Jean-Dickens Toussaint, had been kidnapped on March 18 in Haiti and were being held captive under ransom demands.
The couple went to Haiti to visit family and to attend a festival but were kidnapped on their bus ride from Port-au-Prince, CNN reported, citing a woman claiming to be the victims’ niece.
Gangs in Haiti have grown in strength since the 2021 assassination of President Jovenel Moise, with large portions of the capital and much of the countryside considered lawless territory.
The security situation has devolved further in recent months with routine gun fights between police officers and the gangs. Bloody turf battles have left hundreds dead and thousands displaced.
Seventeen missionaries from the U.S. and Canada were taken hostage and held for ransom in 2021 while on a trip to Haiti organized by the Ohio-based Christian Aid Ministries. The group said ransom money was paid for the release of the captives, but a dozen had escaped on their own.
Later on Thursday, the U.S. Embassy in Haiti said that its personnel was restricted to travel only between embassy compounds until further notice, due to unpredictable police anti-gang operations taking place.
(Reporting by Simon Lewis, Jasper Ward, Rami Ayyub, Daphne Psaledakis and Sarah Morland; Editing by Alistair Bell and Marguerita Choy)