The family of a U.S. couple who has been kidnapped in Haiti is pleading for their release. The American citizens were abducted on Saturday, October 16th, while visiting family members near the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince.
According to the local authorities, the kidnappers have demanded a ransom of $2 million for the safe return of the couple. The victims have been identified as James and Marie Smith from Texas.
In an emotional statement released on Wednesday, October 20th, by their relatives back home in Houston, Texas, they begged for their loved ones' safe return:
"We are heartbroken and terrified by this senseless act of violence against our dear James and Marie. We plead with their captors to show mercy and release them immediately."
The State Department confirmed that it was aware of "the kidnapping" but declined further comment citing privacy concerns.
Kidnappings are common in Haiti where insecurity has increased since President Jovenel Moise's assassination in July. Gangs often carry out abductions targeting wealthy individuals or foreigners to demand ransoms.
Several other Americans have been held hostage in recent months amid rising violence and political instability across the country.
The Smiths had traveled to Haiti several times before visiting relatives there regularly over many years. They run a small business importing Haitian art into the United States.
Their family has set up a GoFundMe page to help raise money for any potential ransom payment or resources needed during this difficult time.
##Conclusion The abduction highlights increasing security concerns among foreign nationals traveling to Haiti amid rising violence following President Jovenel Moise's assassination earlier this year. The U.S Government has issued travel warnings urging U.S Citizens not to travel unless necessary due to such risks associated with traveling there.