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Seven Catholic clergy, including two French, kidnapped in Haiti

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Seven Catholic clergy, five of them Haitian and two French, were kidnapped on Sunday in Haiti, said the spokesman of the Bishop's Conference for the island nation, which has been rocked by unrest.

The five priests and two nuns were abducted in the morning in Croix-des-bouquets, a commune northeast of the capital Port-auprince, while they were "on their way to the installati­on of a new parish priest," Father Loudger Mazile said.

The kidnappers had demanded a $1 million ransom for the group, which includes one French priest and one French nun, he added.

The Haitian Conference of Religious (CHR) said in a statement three other people had also been kidnapped at same time.

Authoritie­s suspect an armed gang called "400 Mawozo" -which is active in kidnapping­s -- is behind the abduction, according to a police source.

The French embassy in Haiti did not respond to AFP'S request for comment. Kidnapping­s for ransom have surged in recent months in Port-au-prince and other provinces, reflecting the growing influence of armed gangs in the Caribbean nation.

Not a day goes by without weeping and gnashing of teeth, yet the so-called leaders of this country, while clinging to power, are increasing­ly powerless."

Haitian Conference of Religious

statement

Gangs on the rise

"The CHR expresses its deep sorrow, but also its anger at the subhuman situation through which we have been wading for more than a decade," the religious group said in its statement.

"Not a day goes by without weeping and gnashing of teeth, yet the so-called leaders of this country, while clinging to power, are increasing­ly powerless."

In March, the Haitian government declared a month-long state of emergency to restore state authority in gang-controlled including in the capital.

The measure was motivated by the actions of armed gangs who "kidnap people for ransom, openly declaring it, steal and loot public and private property, and openly confront the public security forces," according to the presidenti­al decree.

The rise in gang violence and political instabilit­y have recently drawn protesters onto the streets of Port-au-prince.

A week ago, hundreds of female protesters rallied in the city against the growing power of gangs, which has led to a spike in kidnapping­s for ransom.

Haiti, the poorest country in the Americas, has also been in a months-long political crisis.

President Jovenel Moise maintains that his term of office runs until February 7, 2022, but others claim it ended on February 7, 2021.

The disagreeme­nt stems from the fact that Moise was elected in a vote that was cancelled for fraud, and then re-elected a year later.

Without a parliament, the country fell further into crisis in 2020, and Moise is governing by decree, fuelling growing mistrust of him.

Amid the instabilit­y, Moise has said he plans to hold a constituti­onal referendum in June.

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