A Haitian gang abducted 16 American missionaries and one Canadian and is reportedly expected to demand at least $1million in ransom for each hostage.

The 400 Mawozo gang has been blamed for kidnapping the missionaries from the Ohio-based Christian Aid Ministries on Saturday, as they visited an orphanage in Haiti.

Among the 17 missionaries abducted were seven women and five children as young as two years old.

The gang is known for past demands of more than $1million per hostage, has killed some abductees and raped some women, officials have said.

Center for Analysis and Research for Human Rights executive director Gèdèon Jean predicts that 400 Mawozo will ask for at least $1million for each hostage, but that they will all be released eventually.

‘The motive behind the surge in kidnappings for us is a financial one. The gangs need money to buy ammunition, to get weapons, to be able to function,’ Jean told The New York Times.

‘The 400 Mawozo gang don’t want to kill the hostages… They are going to be freed – that’s for sure. We don’t know in how many days, but they’re going to negotiate.’

Haiti has been placed on the Level 4 ‘do Not Travel’ advisory by the State Department.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki on Monday afternoon said she could not provide too many details on the situation or reveal the identities of the abductees.

‘The president has been briefed and is receiving updates on what the State Department and FBI are doing to bring these individuals home safely,’ she said during her briefing.

Psaki added that the State Department put out a warning against traveling to Haiti in August due to the known danger that could befall foreigners.

‘In this case, one thing to note is that we know that the efforts to kidnap people to seek ransom are prominent in places like Haiti,’ she said. ‘Not the only place, but (they have targeted) US citizens, people who are presumed to have the funding and ability to pay those ransoms.’

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