Executive Protection Update: Abductions for Ransom Soar in Haiti

Average of 8 to 10 people kidnapped for ransom each day; 25 U.S. citizens abducted since April


On Oct. 7, they flew two kidnapping defendants to Washington, where they were indicted for holding a 9-year-old Haitian-American girl for a week, Barbeito said. Yves Jean Louis, 24, and Ernso Louis, 19, allegedly took the girl from her bed while she was sleeping at her family home and demanded $200,000. She was rescued after a tip to police.

Both the FBI and U.S. State Department praise the new Haitian National Police chief, Mario Andresol, for working closely with U.S. agents and going after some officers allegedly involved in the kidnappings. Andresol has ordered the arrests of more than 20 officers on charges of kidnapping, drug trafficking and murder, according to news reports.

UNIQUE PROBLEMS

But Haiti provides unique difficulties for the FBI agents. In many countries, they can zero in on the captors by tracking the location of their cellphones. But such analysis is difficult in Haiti because of its poor cellular system and telephone company record-keeping, agents said.

The nature of kidnapping in Haiti also is different.

In Colombia, for example, most abductions are carried out by highly organized guerrilla and paramilitary groups that carefully select their victims and demand large sums of money or political concessions, such as the release of government prisoners. Negotiations can go on for months.

'In Colombia, you're snatched and you're going to the jungle for `an ecological tour' for two years,'' said Barbeito. ``The infrastructure is in place to hold hostages for a long time.''

The largest rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, even has doctors for its hostages, he said.

But Haiti's kidnappers usually just want quick cash and don't have the means to feed a hostage for months, the FBI agent added.

Morgan, who said he has cancer and has had his stomach removed, needs to eat small doses every two hours. He was kidnapped Oct. 14, less than a week after getting out of chemotherapy.

ORDEAL RECOUNTED

The gunmen who captured him and his driver took them to a bare concrete shack in Cité Soleil where a gang leader waited with an M-16 assault rifle, Morgan recounted in an interview. The man leveled the gun between Morgan's eyes and said he would kill him if someone didn't pay $300,000.

The leader then left the pair under the guard of a man who had a pistol. Morgan said he called his church group, New Directions International, on his cellphone to tell them what happened. He described his captivity as loose -- he was allowed to step outside to urinate. He thought of escaping, he added, but figured he would never get out of the slum.

The church contacted the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince, and the FBI began helping with the ransom negotiations, Morgan said. The same night as the kidnapping, Morgan and the driver were released after the church paid $10,000.

Morgan said his Haitian driver knew exactly where they were held in Cité Soleil. But because police cannot enter the slum without heavy U.N. military backing, the kidnappers remain free.

''You'd have to take over the whole neighborhood,'' Barbeito said.


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