The remaining 12 hostages kidnapped by an armed gang in Haiti two months ago were released Thursday, according to the country’s justice minister Berto Dorcé.
Seventeen missionaries representing Christian Aid Ministries (CAM), including 16 Americans and one Canadian, were kidnapped by armed men on October 16 while driving through the suburb of Croix des Bouquets, just outside of the capital city Port-au-Prince. The group had been returning from visiting an orphanage and were headed back to their home base.
Two of the missionaries were released on November 21. Two weeks later, three more hostages were released followed by the remaining 12 on Thursday morning.
A source in Haiti’s security forces said the remaining hostages were released around 5 a.m. ET in the neighborhood of Morne Cabrit.
According to the source, the missionaries were found by locals who dropped them off at a local police station, close to the territory controlled by the gang.
The freed group underwent a medical check and appeared skinny, the source added. The group flew to the US on Thursday via a coast guard flight, the source told CNN.
The gang that authorities said was responsible for the kidnappings, 400 Mawozo, had initially demanded a ransom of $1 million per hostage, according to Haiti’s then-justice minister Liszt Quitel.
A ransom was paid to the 400 Mawozo, according to the source. A US official also said that a ransom was paid, but not by the US government. Though the exact amount is not known, the source said it was far less than the original request of $1 million per hostage.
CNN has reached out to CAM for comment.
CAM released a statement praising the release on Thursday.
“We glorify God for answered prayer – the remaining twelve hostages are FREE! Join us in praising God that all seventeen of our loved ones are now safe. Thank you for your fervent prayers throughout the past two months. We hope to provide more information as we are able,” the statement read.
“I will sing unto the Lord, for he hath triumphed gloriously” (Exodus 15:1b),” it concluded.
The US State Department welcomed the news that the missionaries “are free and will soon be reunited with their loved ones.”
A State Department spokesperson told CNN Thursday that they were continuing to provide “appropriate” assistance to the group and their families and thanked Haitian and international partners “for their assistance in facilitating their safe release.
Kidnappings for ransom in Haiti are widespread and often indiscriminate, targeting rich and poor, young and old. Rising crime has accompanied the country’s political instability, with kidnappings spiking in the months after the July assassination of President Jovenel Moise, according to local human rights organization CARDH. The 400 Mawozo group is particularly notorious for group kidnappings.
Journalist Etant Dupain and CNN’s David Shortell in Mexico City contributed to this report.