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Haiti gang has released 2 of the 17 foreign Christian missionaries they kidnapped

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Gang members in Haiti released two hostages over the weekend. Haitian and U.S. officials are not commenting on the release. The two are part of a group of 17 foreign Christian missionaries who were kidnapped last month. NPR's Carrie Kahn reports.

CARRIE KAHN, BYLINE: The announcement about the religious workers' release came from their Ohio-based group Christian Aid Ministries. On its website, the group only said the two people were safe, being cared for and, quote, "in good spirits." Both the U.S. Embassy in the State Department declined to comment. The 17 foreigners were abducted at gunpoint on October 16th. The notorious 400 Mawozo gang is reportedly asking $17 million for their release.

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UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: (Non-English language spoken).

KAHN: Last week, the gang's leader, Wilson Joseph, posted a video on social media holding a high-powered rifle and bragging about his gang. Haiti is battling rampant gang violence with a spike in kidnappings and crime. The U.S. government recently told all U.S. citizens to leave the country. The leader of a federation of gangs, who calls himself Barbecue, controls large swaths of the capital Port-au-Prince.

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UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Non-English language spoken).

KAHN: Barbecue was a guest on a Twitter Spaces forum. The rambling, hours-long discussion included supporters and victims of his gang. Garry Pierre-Pierre, the publisher of Haitian Times, an online outlet based in New York, says Haitian police aren't able to control these leaders who have become adept at getting attention.

GARRY PIERRE-PIERRE: These are people who call themselves revolutionaries, but they are terrorists as far as I'm concerned, because terrorizing a vulnerable population is no - you know, you're not trying to be a hero.

KAHN: Barbecue's gang federation, known as the G9, blocked access for weeks to a vital refueling port, severely limiting gas needed by hospitals, businesses and public transportation. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters last week that the administration is working hard to rescue the hostages.

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JEN PSAKI: We have a significant presence on the ground, including with law enforcement officials from the FBI and others who are working constantly to bring these individuals home.

KAHN: While it's unclear which of the hostages were released, five of the group are children, one less than a year old.

Carrie Kahn, NPR News, Mexico City.

(SOUNDBITE OF JON HOPKINS' "LIGHT THROUGH THE VEINS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.