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10 arrested with 33 children at Haiti-Dominican border

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Group trying to establish an orphanage for young quake victims, pastor says
  • NEW: "Our team was falsely arrested today," reads statement on church Web site
  • As many as six Americans among the 10 adults arrested, says U.S. official
  • Group probably failed to obtain exit visas for children, official says

Port-au-Prince, Haiti (CNN) -- Ten people, including Americans and Dominicans, carrying 33 children were arrested along the Haitian-Dominican Republic border Saturday, according to Mario Andresol, chief of Haitian National Police.

It was not immediately clear the reason behind the arrests.

"There are no indications this involves trafficking," said a senior U.S. official with direct knowledge of the case who was not authorized to speak on the record. "It appears their orphanage was damaged and they were moving the children to their facility in the [Dominican Republic] but failed to obtain exit visas from Haiti."

Government approval is needed for any Haitian children to leave the country.

The U.S. embassy in Port-au-Prince is seeking consular access to the group, which may include up to six Americans, the official said.

The Rev. Clint Henry, the senior pastor with the Central Valley Baptist Church in Meridian, Idaho, told CNN affiliate KIVI that the 10 are part of a group working to establish an orphanage in the Dominican Republic for the youngest victims of the January 12 earthquake that devastated much of the country.

Henry said some of the children had suffered physical injuries and need medical assistance.

"Our team was falsely arrested today and we are doing everything we can from this end to clear up the misunderstanding that has occurred in Port-au-Prince," a statement on the church's Web site said Saturday night.

The statement said the children were being rescued from "one or more orphanages" that had been damaged in the quake.

Jeanne Bernard-Pierre, general director for Haiti's Institute of Social Welfare, said the children will be interviewed in the coming days to determine whether they have any living relatives.

"When they arrived, some of the children were crying and saying 'I want to see my parents,'" Bernard-Pierre said.

She said the government's Ministry of Social Affairs will attempt to reunite the children with any family members and provide psychological assistance.

Many of the children said they are from Fort Jacques, a town about seven miles from Port-au-Prince, according to Bernard-Pierre.

CNN's Jill Dougherty and journalist Jessica Desvarieux contributed to this report.

 
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