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People protest a spike in kidnappings and a gang-aggravated fuel crisis in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on Thursday. Photo: Richard Pierrin/AFP via Getty Images

Two of the 17 American and Canadian Christian missionaries kidnapped in Haiti last month have been released, U.S. aid officials said Sunday.

Details: "We have learned that two of the hostages in Haiti were released, the Ohio-based Christian Aid Ministries said in a statement. "Only limited information can be provided, but we are able to report that the two hostages who were released are safe, in good spirits, and being cared for."

"We cannot provide or confirm the names of those released, the reasons for their release, where they are from, or their current location. We ask that those who have more specific information about the release and the individuals involved would safeguard that information."
— Christian Aid Ministries
  • Haiti National Police spokesperson Garry Desrosiers confirmed to news outlets that two hostages abducted 37 days ago had been freed.

The big picture: Police said the 400 Mawozo gang in Port-au-Prince kidnapped the 16 U.S citizens and one Canadian — including five children.

  • The gang had demanded a ransom of $1 million per hostage, Reuters notes.
  • The U.S. does not pay kidnap ransoms for citizens.

Background: Haiti has been plagued by violence since the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse last July.

  • Police received at least 328 kidnapping reports in the first eight months of 2021, compared with 234 in total for 2020, a UN agency in Haiti said in September, per AP.

What they're saying: A State Department spokesperson said in an emailed statement, "We welcome reports that two individuals held hostage in Haiti have been released. We do not have further comment at this time."

Go deeper

10 mins ago - World

Scoop: Iran preparing to enrich weapons-grade uranium, Israel warns U.S.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi holds a press conference. Photo: Presidency of Iran handout via Getty

Israel has shared intelligence over the past two weeks with the U.S. and several European allies suggesting that Iran is taking technical steps to prepare to enrich uranium to 90% purity — the level needed to produce a nuclear weapon, two U.S. sources briefed on the issue tell me.

Why it matters: Enriching to 90% would bring Iran closer than ever to the nuclear threshold. The Israeli warnings come as nuclear talks resume in Vienna, with Iran returning to the negotiating table on Monday after a five-month hiatus.

Biden: Fight against Omicron won't include "shutdowns or lockdowns"

Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden on Monday said that the new coronavirus variant, Omicron, is "a cause for concern, not a cause for panic."

Driving the news: Biden said later this week the administration will be releasing a strategy on how "we're going to fight COVID this winter. Not with shutdowns or lockdowns, but with more widespread vaccinations, boosters, testing and more."

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Health: WHO says Omicron poses "very high" risk — Fauci says Omicron variant will "inevitably" be found in U.S. — U.S. restricts air travel from 8 countries over Omicron concerns.
  2. Politics: Biden says fight against Omicron won't include "shutdowns or lockdowns."
  3. States: New York declares state of emergency amid concerns over Omicron.
  4. World: Omicron adds urgency to vaccinating worldWHO warns against travel bans on southern African countries — First North American Omicron cases identified in Canada.
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.